Alice Mary ('May') Chambers was a painter and draughtswoman. She may have been the niece of Charles Augustus Howell, an entrepreneur who helped Whistler to sell his works and himself owned a significant number of the artist's paintings.
Chambers was primarily a figure painter, active in London from 1880 to 1894. She spent a good deal of time in France and Spain, and produced oriental, Egyptian and mythological scenes in a Pre-Raphaelite style. She exhibited in London at the Royal Academy, the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours and the New Gallery, as well as at the Royal Society of Artists in Birmingham, the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and Manchester City Art Gallery.
Chambers was named joint guardian of C. A. Howell's daughter Rosalind at his death in 1890. She was also appointed Howell's executrix and in this capacity came into ownership of The Artist's Studio (YMSM 62). She was able to provided useful information to the Pennells on Howell's art dealings. For example, she claimed that Whistler authorised Howell to sell Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle (YMSM 137) for £102.10.0 and gave Howell a receipt for that amount.
In 1881 she was living at 17 Red Lion Square with Walter Ashe, an Esquire Major of the King's Dragoons 9th Infantry.
UK census 1881 from http://www.familysearch.org (accessed 2004); Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; Johnson, J. and A. Gruetzner, The Dictionary of British Artists, 1880-1940, Woodbridge, 1976; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980.