The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Ellen Mellicent Sickert, 1848-1914

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1848.08.18
Place of Birth: 103 Westbourne Terrace, Kensington, London
Date of Death: 1914
Place of Death:


Ellen ('Nellie') Melicent Sickert, née Cobden, was an English writer. She was the fourth daughter of the Radical politician Richard and Catherine Anne Cobden, née Williams. Ellen married the artist Walter Richard Sickert in 1885. They were divorced in 1899.

In 1913 she changed her name by deed poll from Ellen Melicent Ashburner Cobden Sickert to Ellen Melicent Cobden.


Ellen Cobden was a charming and cultivated woman. She wrote two novels, Winstons (1902) under the pseudonym Miles Amber, and the autobiographical Sylvia Saxon (1914).

Her fortune helped her husband considerably in his artistic career.

Commissioned by Walter Sickert, Whistler painted a couple of portraits of Ellen around 1885-6, Arrangement in Violet and Pink: Mrs Walter Sickert (YMSM 337) and Green and Violet: Portrait of Mrs Walter Sickert (YMSM 338). Walter Sickert bought A White Note (YMSM 44) and exhibited it at the New English Art Club as 'A White Note'. He later passed it on to Ellen. Ellen also owned The Opal Sea (M.1041) and a portrait of Maud Franklin which she later returned to Whistler. This may have been A Portrait: Maud (YMSM 186) or Harmony in Black, No. 10 (YMSM 357). Whistler remained friendly with Ellen even after his 1897 quarrel with her husband.


Times, London, 25 July 1912, p. 1; 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.