Sir Henry Bruce Meux, the son of Sir Henry Meux, was a London brewer who became the third and last baronet of Theobald's Park, Waltham Cross, Herefordshire in 1883. On 27 August 1878 he secretly married Valerie Susie Langdon, an 'actress' who was believed to have worked under the name Val Reece at the Casino de Venise in Holburn.
Meux was educated at Eton and then at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was Captain and Honorary Major of the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry Cavalry. He was High Sheriff of Wiltshire in 1886.
Sir Henry Meux, who was also a patron of the arts, commissioned from Whistler three portraits of his wife in 1881 for 1500 guineas, although Whistler later agreed to accept 1200 guineas. In Arrangement in Black: Lady Meux (YMSM 228), Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux (YMSM 229) and Portrait of Lady Meux in Furs (YMSM 230) Whistler presented Lady Meux as a rather sensual and fashion conscious figure. They were significant works for Whistler, being the first full-scale commissions to have been given him following his bankruptcy in 1879.
A fourth portrait in riding habit was proposed by Sir Henry but not begun. According to Leslie Ward it had been Charles Brookfield who had originally suggested that Whistler should paint Lady Meux. Brookfield later drew a caricature of Whistler painting the three portraits which appeared in the Graphic on 25 March 1911.
Harmony in Pink and Grey: Portrait of Lady Meux (YMSM 229) was exhibited in Dublin in 1884 when it was insured for £300, and at the Goupil Gallery in February 1892. In December 1884 Whistler made a drawing of Portrait of Lady Meux in Furs (YMSM 230), the only portrait not completed, for C. W. Dowdeswell which was reproduced in the Illustrated London News. According to Rosalind Birnie Philip, Whistler later destroyed Portrait of Lady Meux in Furs (YMSM 230).
Lady Meux was not accepted by her husband's aristocratic family nor by polite Victorian society. In her will she excluded the Brudenell-Bruce family who had shunned her all her life.
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. et al, Whistler, Women and Fashion, New Haven and London, 2003.