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

Pickford Robert Waller, 1849-1930

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1849.10.29
Place of Birth: 26 Grosvenor St. West, Pimlico, London
Date of Death: 1930.03.26
Place of Death: 4 Wollstonecraft Rd, Bournemouth


Pickford Robert Waller, an English designer and collector, was the son of a builder Robert John Waller and Harriet Shafto Pickford. He had a brother Charles Bullen Waller. Pickford Waller and his wife had one daughter, Sybil Waller.


Waller, an avid collector of Whistleriana, first met Whistler when he visited his studio as a young man in the company of the artist Matthew White Ridley.

At the sale of Murray Marks' collection in 1879 Waller bought for one guinea twenty-nine drawings by Whistler of blue and white vases in the collection in Sir H. Thompson. Six drawings were lent by Waller for exhibition in London in 1905 as 'Illustrations to Sir Henry Thompson's catalogue of his Collection of Blue and White Nankin Porcelain, 1878'.

Following Whistler's bankruptcy and the selling of the White House in 1879, the Butterfly Cabinet, Harmony in Yellow and Gold: The Butterfly Cabinet (YMSM 195), designed by Whistler and E. W. Godwin, was auctioned. It later appeared in a second hand furniture shop, where, according to Pennell, it was bought by Waller. It was he who had what was originally a fireplace converted into a cabinet by replacing the grate with doors adapted from the dado.

Waller also acquired Two figures (M.311), r.: Study for 'Symphony in White No. 3'; v.: Draped figures (M.322), r.: A group of figures; v.: Figure (M.341), r.: Harmony in Gold and Brown; v.: Nude figure (M.374), r.: Sketch of Battersea Reach for a Nocturne; v.: Illegible (skyline?) (M.474), Sketch for a Nocturne (M.475), Study for a Nocturne (M.477), Studies of Baby Leyland (M.516), Double Gourd Vase and Saucer-Shaped Dish (M.613), Beaker (M.614), Beaker (M.615), Sketch design for decoration of passage of 96 Cheyne Walk (M.660), r.: Two sketches of Nellie Farren; v.: Studies of two actors or actresses, one playing a banjo (M.667), r.: Demon; v.: Young woman (M.668), Theatrical sketch (M.672), Man in the dock at Bow Street Police Court (M.679), A Study (M.686), Maud Franklin (M.689), r. and v.: Design for the cover of 'Whistler v. Ruskin: Art and Art Critics' (M.706), Design for the cover of 'Whistler v. Ruskin: Art and Art Critics' (M.707), Sir Henry Cole, and a list of pictures (M.839), Sketch of 'Harmony in Grey and Green: Miss Cicely Alexander' (M.843), Study of Maud Waller for 'Scherzo in Blue: The Blue Girl' (M.846), r.: Caricature; v.: Portrait of Whistler (M.847), Milly Finch (M.907), r.: and v.: Eagle (M.1147.), Skull and crossbones (M.1481), Butterfly (M.1548), r.: Butterfly for 'Noblesse abuse'; v.: tail (M.1550), Butterfly for 'Noblesse abuse!' (M.1551), r.: Butterfly; v.: Butterflies (M.1552), Butterfly beside the sea (M.1554), Butterfly beside the sea (M.1555), r.: Butterfly and tricolour flag; v.: Two butterflies and part of a third (M.1556), Butterfly (M.1557), Butterfly and tricolour flag (M.1560), Butterfly (M.1571), v.: Butterfly; r.: see No. 1268 (M.1572), r.: and v.: Butterfly (M.1573), Butterfly (M.1574), Butterfly (M.1577). On his death in 1930 Waller bequeathed his collection to his daughter Sybil.

According to Waller, Scherzo in Blue: The Blue Girl (YMSM 226) was painted from his brother Major Charles Bullen Waller's second daughter Maud, who was a beautiful child and a pet of Whistler's. Waller, who according to James Guthrie, frequented Whistler's studio whilst he was painting this work, recalled that when the portrait was halfway through it was put aside, but that it was sent to the Grosvenor Gallery for the private view and taken away directly after. Waller drew caricatures of Whistler, one of which Guthrie reproduced. It may have been as an exchange that Whistler gave Waller r.: Caricature; v.: Portrait of Whistler (M.847).

1874/8 ref; 1878-99 author, 1885x22 recip., - M.593


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.