The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Lilian Pettigrew, 1870-??

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1870.03.04
Place of Birth: Portsmouth
Date of Death:
Place of Death:


Lilian ('Lily') Pettigrew was a professional model in London. She was the daughter of William Pettigrew, a cork cutter, and Harriet Davis, a needleworker, who had married in 1853. They had thirteen children in all. Lily's older sister Hetty and her younger sister Rose Amy were also models.


Lily came to London around 1884 when she was just fourteen years old. She and her sisters first posed for John Everett Millais' An Idyll of 1745 (Lady Lever Art Gallery) in 1884. Millais described them as 'three little gypsies... with the characteristic carelessness of their race, they just came when they liked'. The three girls also posed for Rudolph Onslow Ford, William Holman Hunt, Frederic Leighton, Edward Poynter, Val Prinsep, John Singer Sargent, Walter Sickert and Philip Wilson Steer.

Lily, like her sisters, posed for Whistler. Around 1895 Whistler painted her portrait, Portrait Study of Lily Pettigrew (YMSM 434), and in 1898/1902 he painted her as 'a sort of Eve with an Apple in her hand', Eve (YMSM 491). She also posed for a number of pastels including Mother and Child - The Pearl (M.1290) and possibly A nude with red hair (M.1384). 1384. In her memoirs, Rose described her sister Lily as having 'most beautiful curly red hair, violet eyes, a beautiful mouth, classic nose, and beautifully shaped face, long neck, well set, and a most exquisite figure; in fact she was perfection!'


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; MacDonald, Margaret, 'Pettigrew sisters', in Jiminez, Jill Berk (ed.), Dictionary of Artists' Models, Chicago, 2001.