William Cleverly Alexander was a wealthy banker, the son of George William Alexander of Surrey. He married Rachel Agnes Lucas in 1861. They had three sons and seven daughters: Agnes Mary ('May') (b. 1862), Cicely Henrietta (b. 1864), Helen C. (b. ca 1865), Grace (b. 1867), Emily M. (b. ca 1871), Rachel F. (b. ca 1875) and Jean I. (b. ca 1877).
Alexander was a keen collector and belonged to the Burlington Fine Arts Club. He was a patron of JW, who commissioned works including Harmony in Grey and Green: Miss Cicely Alexander (YMSM 129), Miss May Alexander (YMSM 127) and Portrait of Miss Grace Alexander (YMSM 130). He also bought Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Chelsea (YMSM 103) from JW in 1871, having seen it exhibited at the Dudley Gallery, and owned various works on paper. JW worked on decorative schemes for him at Aubrey House, Kensington, in 1873, which Alexander had purchased from Peter Alfred Taylor, MP for Leicester, that same year (see Designs for the arrangement of china in the dining room at Aubrey House (M.487)). According to Freer, probably during JW's bankruptcy, various works (Battersea Reach from Lindsey Houses (YMSM 55), Study of Draped Figures (YMSM 58), The Morning after the Revolution, Valparaiso (YMSM 75) and possibly The Blue Girl: Portrait of Connie Gilchrist (YMSM 207)) were left with Alexander 'and never sent for' until Rosalind Birnie Philip asked for their return.
UK 1881 census; Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; Lugt, Frits, Les marques de collections de dessins et d'estampes: marques estampillèes et écrites de collections particulières et publiques; marques de marchands, de monteurs et d'imprimeurs; etc..., Amsterdam, 1921, no. 96; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995.