Helen Rose Huth, née Ogilvy, was the daughter of Thomas Ogilvy, a merchant from Corrimony, Inverness-shire, and Elizabeth Ogilvy, née Wilson. She married the collector and Director of The London Assurance for Fire, Life and Marine Assurance, Louis Huth, who died in 1905.
In 1907 she married Archibald Barwell How (1860-1947), son of William and Louisa Katharine How (née Ardil), who was a classical scholar, a lecturer (1884) and Fellow (1886-1919) at Exeter College, Cambridge. He was Bursar of the college from 1892-1919, and became an Honorary Fellow on his retirement in 1919.
The Huths were collectors of the works of George Frederick Watts and JW. They owned Symphony in White, No. 3 (YMSM 61), Variations in Pink and Grey: Chelsea (YMSM 105), The Bridge; flesh colour and brown (M.759), The Storm - Sunset (M.808) and Fishing Boats (M.819). Helen Huth posed to JW for her portrait in 1872, around the same time as Frances Leyland. Drawings for both portraits were made on a single sheet of paper, r.: Study for 'Arrangement in Black, No. 2: Portrait of Mrs Louis Huth'; v.: Study for 'Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland' (M.454). Helen Huth was not strong but JW would keep her standing for 3 hour sessions. However, at times a model stood for her black velvet gown. Pennell wrote: 'Whistler carried out his method of painting in the whole picture at once. The background was as much a part of the design as the face. If anything went wrong anywhere the whole picture had to come out and be started again [...] the system taught by Gleyre, and developed in the Nocturnes was perfected in the portraits of Leyland and Mrs Huth. The tones, made from a very few colours of infinite gradations, were mixed on the great palette, with black as the basis.' The portrait, Arrangement in Black, No. 2: Portrait of Mrs Louis Huth (YMSM 125), was finished and bought by Louis Huth early in 1873. It shows JW's admiration for Velásquez, an appreciation shared by Louis Huth. Her portrait had been previously painted by Watts.
The Huths were included in list by JW that may have been a guest list for his 1874 Pall Mall exhibition or a subscription list for his Venice etchings as envisaged in 1876. They were then living at 28 Hertford Street, Mayfair. In 1901 at the time of the census, Helen Huth was living in Waldron, East Sussex.
UK Census, 1901; 'Mr. A. B. How', Times, London, 3 March 1947, p. 6; 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; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995.