The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Maud Franklin, 1857-1941

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1857.01.09
Place of Birth: Bicester, Oxfordshire
Date of Death: 1941
Place of Death:


Maud Franklin was JW's model and mistress. She was christened Mary after her mother, Mary Clifton, and in later years exhibited paintings under the name 'Clifton Lin'. Her father, Charles Franklin, was a cabinet maker and upholsterer and she had two brothers and three sisters. Maud sometimes called herself 'Mrs Whistler' and indeed at the time of the 1881 census gave her married name as 'Mary M. Whistler'. It is known that she had at least two daughters: Maud Mary Whistler Franklin who was born on 13 February 1879, and Ione, born on 15 October, possibly in 1876 or 1877. The child Maud died at an early age, and Ione was brought up by foster parents; she later married Warwick A. Tyler, on 14 October 1899.

Eventually Maud married a wealthy New Yorker, John A. Little, and had a son, John Franklin Little. He came to live in Sausolito, CA, near his half-sister, Ione, who looked after him for two years until his death in 1948. After Little's death in 1904, Maud was married again, in about 1911, to another New Yorker, Richard H. S. Abbott. They lived in Yport and Villa Mon Gri, Cannes until her death on 18 November 1939.


It is not known exactly when Maud began to pose for JW, but she is said to have stood in for Mrs Leyland (see Mrs Leyland seated (M.429)) for the portrait, Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland (YMSM 106), which was first exhibited in 1874. She was then only seventeen. She was also the original model for what became a portrait of Florence Leyland (Portrait of Miss Florence Leyland (YMSM 107)) and for the completed version of Harmony in Grey and Peach Colour (YMSM 131) (see M.470-1). Probably the first portrait of her is Portrait of Maud Franklin (YMSM 94).

Certainly by 1877 she was installed as JW's model and mistress until his marriage in 1888. She was beautiful, passionate, artistic and, as a model, sensitive and expressive. She posed for some of JW's finest etchings (K114-5, K.133), lithographs (W 1-3, 6, 13, 131), paintings (Portrait of Maud Franklin (YMSM 94); Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland (YMSM 106); Portrait of Miss Florence Leyland (YMSM 107); The Blue Girl: Maud Franklin (YMSM 112); Harmony in Grey and Peach Colour (YMSM 131); Maud Franklin (YMSM 132); Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket (YMSM 181); Arrangement in Brown (YMSM 182); Arrangement in Yellow and Grey: Effie Deans (YMSM 183); Arrangement in White and Black (YMSM 185); A Portrait: Maud (YMSM 186); Harmony in Pink and Red (YMSM 192); Arrangement in Blue and Green (YMSM 193); Maud Franklin (YMSM 194); Arrangement in Black: Girl Reading (YMSM 223); Harmony in Black and Red (YMSM 236); Note in Red: The Siesta (YMSM 254); Portrait of Maud Franklin (YMSM 353); Harmony in Black, No. 10 (YMSM 357); Maud (YMSM 358)) as well as drawings, pastels and watercolours. JW called his portraits of Maud 'artist's' pictures: 'impressions of my own'; and they are very personal works expressing depths of emotion between artist and model.

During the time of the Ruskin trial, Maud was pregnant, and JW behaved extremely badly towards her. Leaving Maud at a hotel in January 1879, he pretended he was going to Paris, sending letters under cover to George Lucas in Paris to be sent back to her in London. It is not clear whether Maud ever realized the deception practiced on her. When the little girl was born, she was registered without a father's name, although with 'Whistler' as one of her middle names; Maud giving her profession as artist.

After JW's bankruptcy, she joined him in Venice; she cooked and entertained his friends, but was not 'received' in society.

Perhaps because of her pregnancies, Maud's health suffered, and a number of watercolours in the eighties show her in bed (see Girl reading in bed (M.867), Maud reading in bed (M.899), Pink note - The Novelette (M.900)). She painted alongside JW's followers and exhibited at the Grosvenor and the Society of British Artists. There were tremendous rows between Maud and Beatrice Godwin before JW's marriage in 1888. Maud went to convalesce at the home of William Stott of Oldham, where she heard the new of JW's marriage. She later departed for Paris where she modeled a little and later refused to speak to biographers about JW.


UK census 1881 (accessed 2004.03) from (accessed 2004); Will admitted for probate, copy stamped 16 March 1962, Spirer papers, University of Glasgow; 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., 'Maud Franklin,' James McNeill Whistler: A Reexamination, ed. Ruth Fine, Studies in the History of Art, vol. IXX, Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts, Washington, D.C., Symposium Papers VI, 1987, pp. 13-26; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995.