The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Agnes Poynter, ca 1846- d.1906

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1846
Place of Birth: Leeds
Date of Death: 1906
Place of Death:


Lady Agnes Poynter, née Macdonald, was the daughter of the methodist preacher Rev. George Browne Macdonald and Hannah Jones, the daughter of a Manchester grocer. She was one of eleven children: Mary (1834-6), Henry (1835-91), Alice (1837-1910), Caroline (1838-1854), Georgiana (1840-1920), Frederic (1842-1928), Agnes (1843-1906), Louisa (1845-1925), Walter (d. 1847), Edith (1848-1937) and Herbert (1850-1851). The girls made profitable marriages. Alice, who initially became engaged to the poet William Allingham, married the designer and modeller John Lockwood Kipling (their son was the celebrated novelist Rudyard Kipling), Georgiana married the painter Edward Burne-Jones and Louisa married the wealthy iron founder Alfred Baldwin (their son Stanley was to become Prime Minister). On 9 August 1866 Agnes married the painter Sir Edward John Poynter (it was a joint wedding with Louisa and Alfred). Their son Sir Ambrose Macdonald Poynter (1867-1923) became an architect and Hugh (1882-1986) went to work for E. P. & W. Baldwin.


Agnes, who played the piano and sang, was the most musical of the Macdonald sisters. In 1865 she was working on a sonata by Hummel, Spohr's Faust and Mozart's Jupiter Symphony. Like her sisters she modelled in her youth for Burne-Jones. She was also beautiful: Lockwood described her as 'tyrannously beautiful'. Poynter, who shared Agnes' love of music, proposed to her in April 1865.

The Poynters met up with JW on his way to Venice in 1879, travelling with him as far as Milan. They were also in Venice for a time whilst JW was there and sent news back of him to Ernest G. Brown of the Fine Art Society (#01107). In 1892 David Croal Thomson wrote to JW that Poynter and his wife had been in the Goupil Gallery in London to view JW's exhibition Nocturnes, Marines and Chevalet Pieces, and that they had made a very careful observation of the works and had been 'very appreciative' and 'certainly sincere'. Thomson declared of Poynter, 'We know him to be one of the broadest minded men in the R.A. & hope that he will be P.R.A. yet' (#05716).


MacDonald, Margaret F., Palaces in the Night Whistler in Venice, Aldershot, 2001; Flanders, Judith, Circle of Sisters: Alice Kipling, Georgiana Burne-Jones, Agnes Poynter and Louisa Baldwin, London, 2001.