Ellen Sturgis Hooper, later Mrs John Briggs Potter, was the daughter of Edward William Hooper, the Boston collector. She had a sister called Fanny, later Mrs G. S. Curtiss.
Ellen Hooper's father bought a couple of paintings from Whistler, Interior (YMSM 22) and A Red Note: Fête on the Sands, Ostend (YMSM 366). Interior (YMSM 22) was bequeathed to his daughter Fanny and A Red Note: Fête on the Sands, Ostend (YMSM 366) to Ellen. According to Ellen, A Red Note: Fête on the Sands, Ostend (YMSM 366) was bought when Whistler was painting her portrait, E. W. Hooper having commissioned Whistler to paint his eldest daughter in 1890, Six girls by the sea (M.391). The seventeen year old posed for Whistler in the south-facing studio at 21 Cheyne Walk, and her father attended all the sittings. She had twenty sittings, despite her father's stipulation that there should be no more than ten sittings of an hour each, due to his daughter's weak state (#09138). According to Armstrong who interviewed Ellen, Whistler 'was interested in Ellen's copper hair and high colouring. She wore a dress made of material sent her by a cousin in Japan, Dr W. S. Bigelow... Whistler talked very little during the sittings... gave the impression of intense concentration'.
Ellen's father wrote to Whistler in 1891 encouraging him to submit plans for the decoration of a panel for Bates Hall. He also suggested to Beatrix in that year that Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle (YMSM 137) might be purchased for the Boston Public Library (#02169).
US Census 1880 from http://www.familysearch.org (accessed 2004.03); Armstrong, J. B., 'Portrait of a Lady: A Recollection of Whistler, Art Journal, vol. 25, spring 1966, pp. 250-51; 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.