The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Clementine Mitford, 1854-1932

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1854
Place of Birth:
Date of Death: 1932
Place of Death:


Clementine Gertrude Helen Mitford, née Ogilvy, was daughter of David Graham Drummond Ogilvy, the 9th Earl of Airlie, and Henrietta Blanche, Countess of Airlie. Clementine's brother David Stanley William (1856-1900) succeeded her father as Earl in 1881. He sister was Henrietta Blanche Ogilvy (b. 1852) who in 1878 married Col. Sir Henry Montague Hozier.

In 1874 Clementine Ogilvy married Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford of Batsford Park, Gloucestershire, and Birdhope Craig, Northumberland. A diplomat and collector, he became Lord Redesdale in 1886 and a Baron in 1902. Together they had seven children: Frances Georgiana (b. 20 November 1875); Clement Bertram Ogilvy (b. 14 December 1876); David Bertram Ogilvy (b. 13 March 1878); Iris Elizabeth (b. 28 February 1879); Bertram Thomas Carlyle Ogilvy (b. 2 June 1880); John Power Bertram Ogilvy (b. 31 January 1881); and Joan (b. 7 December 1882).


Before their marriage, Freeman-Mitford served in the Diplomatic Corps in Peking, and then went to Japan as second secretary to the British Legation, where he wrote Tales of Old Japan (1871). During their marriage he acted as secretary to H. M. Office of Works.

The Mitfords were probably introduced to Whistler in 1873 through their friendship with Alan Summerly Cole (#09022). According to Pennell, Whistler painted a portrait of Clementine Mitford 'in draperies of Chinese blue silk' around 1876, Portrait of Lady Redesdale (YMSM 189). He also painted her husband's portrait in 'Van Dyck costume', Portrait of Lord Redesdale (YMSM 188). Both paintings were slashed to pieces by Whistler to prevent them from falling into the hands of his creditors.

From 1877 Clementine Mitford and her husband lived at Lindsey House, near Whistler and also D. G. Rossetti. They were on good terms with Whistler for many years. Her husband acted as Whistler’s referee when signing the lease for the site of The White House. The Mitfords were friendly with Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, and introduced her to Whistler in 1878. Whistler found her sympathetic when he discussed with her the problems he was having with the Board of Works (#01746).

The Mitfords and Whistler shared an enthusiasm for Japanese art. However, they did not approve of Whistler's relationship with Charles A. Howell (#09523). The Mitfords supported Whistler artistically. In 1883 Clementine Mitford bought one of Whistler's Venice etchings, The Doorway (#12991). A. B. Mitford was present at Whistler's delivery of his 'Ten O'Clock Lecture' on 20 February 1885 at the Prince's Hall, Piccadilly. Clementine Mitford told Whistler that it was ''the most brilliant thing' Bertie had ever heard' and expressed her disappointment at not being present herself (#04084). Whistler like to name drop his friendship with the Mitfords and their family connection with the Earl of Airlie, in his letters to his acquaintances.


Sir Bernard Burke, A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, 2 vols, London, 1894; Debrett's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, London, 1896; Who's Who, London, 1905; Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; Pennell, Joseph, and Elizabeth Robins Pennell, The Joseph and Elizabeth Robins Pennell Collection of Whistleriana Shown in Division of Prints, Library of Congress, Southwest Pavilion, Washington, G.P.O. Library Branch, 1921; Mitford, Algernon Bertram, Memoirs, London, 1915; Mitford, A. B., Little Memories, London, 1917; Girouard, Mark, Sweetness and Light: The 'Queen Anne' Movement 1860-1900, Oxford, 1977; 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.