The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
Home > On-line Edition > Biography

Mary Bacon Ford, ??-??

Nationality: American
Date of Birth:
Place of Birth: New York
Date of Death:
Place of Death:


Mary Bacon Ford, née Martin, was an art agent. She married the American journalist Sheridan Ford (1860-1922) in New York on 31 October 1887. They later divorced.


Ford seems to have arrived in London in 1885 and set herself up as an intermediary between artists and dealers. She seems to have met JW at the end of 1887 or early 1888 (#01438, #03220). According to JW, she 'obtained a certain [romantic?] position of faith and following in the studios as the herald of a new "Arcadia" in the picture market'.

Ford and her husband's connection with JW began in 1888 when, hoping to become his art agent in America, they approached him with a proposal which centred on a series of etchings to be entitled 'Whistler's American Etchings'. Ford played the major role in their attempt to negotiate a business relationship with JW. However, as JW soon found out, the proposal placed chief control over his affairs with the Fords and a syndicate of New York investors (#01448). Alarmed by the proposal, JW drew back claiming 'the Fords would have me sign away my future altogether' (#10081) although by the following year, he had agreed to Sheridan Ford's proposal to publish his letters to the press in volume form.

In 1890, Mary Bacon Ford published an art pamphlet Irregular Money-Producers (The Gospel of Want) (London, J. Wade).


Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; de Montfort, P., The Fiction of My Own Biography: Whistler and the Gentle Art of Making Enemies, Ph.D. diss., University of St Andrews, 1994; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995; U.S. marriage records, (accessed September 2004).