The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler

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Helen Whistler, 1849-1917

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1849.10.15
Place of Birth: Upper Clapton, London
Date of Death: 1917.01.08
Place of Death: London


Helen ('Nellie') Euphrosyne Whistler, née Ellen Ionides, was JW's sister-in-law. She was the daughter of Eustratius Constantine Ionides (1817-1888) and [Hariclia Xeno] Chariclea Xenos (1827-1919), and was one of four children. She married JW's brother Dr William McNeill Whistler on 17 April 1877 at the parish church of St George in Hanover Square. He specialised in throat diseases and was active in founding the London Throat Hospital.


At her birth Nellie was registered as Ellen but she was christened Helen Euphrosyne Ionides. In London JW was among the many guests who received the hospitality of the Ionides at the Tulse Hill home of Alexander Constantine Ionides (1810-1890), Nellie's uncle. He also commissioned and bought a number of JW's paintings. Nellie's cousins Luke and Aleco first met JW when he was studying art in Paris, and Aleco went on to buy several of his paintings (Sea and Rain (YMSM 65), Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso Bay (YMSM 76), Green and Grey: The Oyster Smacks, Evening (YMSM 99) andArrangement in Grey: Portrait of the Painter (YMSM 122)). Her cousin Aglaia Coronio was also a collector (see Grey and Silver: Old Battersea Reach (YMSM 46), A Girl by a Shelf (YMSM 48) and Nocturne in Black and Gold: Entrance to Southampton Water (YMSM 179)).

Nellie, who became very close to JW, at times modelled for the artist. r.: Nelly; v.: Child (M.336) and Nelly (M.338) show her to be a progressive, confident young woman, particularly in the former in which she is shown smoking. Nelly (M.337), in which she is depicted sewing, is a more domestic image. Her correspondence with JW shows the depth of their affection and friendship.

She outlived both her husband and brother-in-law, dying on 6 January 1917 with her nephew Stephen Manuel by her bedside.


Butterworth, Dorothea, Ionides Family Tree, [privately published], 1936; Metaxas, K. H., 'The Ionides: a Greek family in Britain: family tree', The Greek Gazette, December 1995.