The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Lucas Ionides, 1837-1924

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1837.03.22
Place of Birth: London
Date of Death: 1924.03.19
Place of Death: London


Lucas ('Luke') Alexander Ionides was a stockbroker, businessman and member of the Greek merchant family who were also generous patrons of artists. The second son of Alexander Constantine Ionides (1810-1890) and Euterpe Sgouta (1816-1892), his siblings Constantine (1833-1900), Aglaia Coronio (1834-1906) and Alexander (1840-1898), were also collectors. He married Elfrida Elizabeth Bird (1848-1929), the daughter of Dr George Bird, on 29 August 1869. They had seven children: Alexander George (b. 8 April 1870), Aglaia Mary (b. 27 November 1871), Cyril (b. 30 October 1873), Eirene (b. 19 April 1875), Philip (b. 24 October 1876), Dorothea (b. 1878), Basil (b. 28 June 1884). They separated in 1895.


Ionides met JW shortly after his arrival in Paris in 1855 through his younger brother Alexander, and remained friends with him for nearly fifty years. His cousin Helen, with whom he had been friends since childhood, married JW's brother William in 1877.

Ionides was among JW's earliest patrons, buying his work when JW was short of money, and they shared a love of Oriental art and porcelain. A stockbroker of uncertain success in the family business, Ionides was based in London apart from a trip to the Near East 1861-63 to look after the company's interests. Before he set off, his father commissioned JW to paint his portrait, Portrait of Luke A. Ionides (YMSM 32), probably after seeing At the Piano (YMSM 24). On his return, Lucas went into partnership with his brother Constantine until 1875.

The family home at Tulse Hill, south London was a gathering place for artists, writers and musicians. The 'Paris gang' of Thomas Armstrong, George du Maurier and JW expanded to include many other artists, including Fantin-Latour, Legros, Rossetti, Burne-Jones and William Morris. 'Open house' continued when the family moved to 1 Holland Park in 1864, Luke and his new wife living at 16 Holland Villas Road. The climax of JW's quarrel with Legros occurred in Luke's office, and although he initially attempted a reconciliation, Legros never visited the Ionides' home again.

Ionides was a lively and gregarious character, who enjoyed 'bachelor evenings' in the company of Burne-Jones. His art collection was much smaller than that of his elder brother and father, but he also painted a little himself, and repaired damaged family paintings. It is difficult to state with certainty which works of art he owned (see Symphony in Grey and Gold (YMSM 143), Nocturne: Westminster - Grey and Gold (YMSM 144), Nocturne in Grey and Gold (YMSM 155) and Nocturne: Grey and Silver (YMSM 156)), for he states 'I often had to part with them when necessity arose'. The large house at 17 Upper Philimore Gardens, Campden Hill, London to which he moved as the family started to grow, required a substantial staff, and like other Ionides homes, was partly decorated by Morris. However, in 1895 Ionides lost a great deal of money and his wife and children left him; henceforth he lived alone in various lodgings.

Ionides wrote an account of his friendship with JW in Memories, and was a member of the Honorary Committee for the 1905 'Memorial Exhibition of the works of the late James McNeill Whistler', held by the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers.


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; Ionides, Luke Memories, Paris, 1925, reprinted with an afterword by Julia Ionides, Ludlow, 1996.