The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Edith Burkett, 1893?-1973

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1893.03.06
Place of Birth:
Date of Death: 1973.03.03
Place of Death:


Edith Annie Burkett, later Mrs Shaw, was the younger daughter of JW's landlady at 8 Fitzroy Square who married a Mr Blackwell in 1901. She had a sister called Sophie who married W. E. Griffiths.


In 1898 Edith saw JW at work at 8 Fitzroy Street: 'Whistler was making nude paintings at this time of a girl, Eva Carrington - or they might have been pastels. He discovered her also in one of the "alleys". She was quite brazen and when I went into the studio he had an understanding that his maid Marie should take her out of his studio to the kitchen - "while Miss Edith is here".'

Early in 1898 JW asked Edith to sit for him with 'an old fashioned sun-bonnet on my head'. She was then about twelve. However, she was taken ill and her sister Sophie was sent to pose instead. JW made a rough sketch of her, and becoming interested in her as a subject, decided to paint a portrait of her. He worked on Rose and Gold: The Little Lady Sophie of Soho (YMSM 504) over a number of weeks before returning to Paris. Edith recalled that the painting was finished at 110 rue du Bac. This was probably about March 1899. Edith, explaining the title, said that JW 'told my mother my sister was 'fit to be a princess', and he named the finished picture Rose and Gold: Little Lady Sophie of Soho.'

When Sophie's picture was completed around May 1899, JW started to paint Edith again. Edith recalled, 'I was wearing a blue dress with a cerise yoke pleats & a black ribbon bow on my hair at the back' to contrast with her red-gold hair, which JW used to describe as 'burning gold'. The painting was completed before JW went to Corsica at the end of 1900.

In 1901 JW, writing from Ajaccio, suggested to Rosalind Birnie-Philip that she could get 'Edie' to help her tidy up his London studio and make an inventory of certain items [#04787].


Shaw, Edith and Margaret F. MacInnes, 'Four Years with Whistler', Apollo, vol. 87, March 1968, pp. 198-201; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980.