Rachel Agnes Alexander, née Lucas, was the wife of the wealthy banker and collector William Cleverly Alexander, whom she married 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).
According to W. C. Alexander, he commissioned JW to paint his daughters in 1872 because he liked Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother (YMSM 101). JW's mother, Anna Whistler wrote to Rachel Agnes Alexander on 26 August 1872 recommending a dress that JW had designed for Cicely's portrait (Design for a dress for Miss Cicely H. Alexander (M.503), #07571). In November 1872, Cicely was posing twice a week for her portrait in JW's studio in Chelsea. The work required over seventy sittings before it was completed.
Rachel Alexander's daughters May and Grace also posed for JW (see Miss May Alexander (YMSM 127), Portrait of Miss Grace Alexander (YMSM 130), Sketch for 'Portrait of Miss Grace Alexander' (M.506)). The family acquired a group of pen drawings which included portraits of May (Study for 'Portrait of Miss May Alexander' (M.499)) and Grace (Sketch for 'Portrait of Miss Grace Alexander' (M.506), Sketch for 'Portrait of Miss Grace Alexander' (M.507)). Study for 'Portrait of Miss May Alexander' (M.498), a portrait of May, which was drawn in 1873 and sent in a letter to Rachel A. Alexander.
UK census 1881 from http://www.familysearch.org (accessed 2004); Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; 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.