William Richman Farquhar was the third son of Admiral Sir Arthur Farquhar of Aberdeenshire. In 1897 he married Marion Peck, the eldest daughter of Harold Stanton Peck of the U.S. Navy. Their first child was born on 4 December 1900. Their son, Major Kenneth Royston Farquhar married after Marion's death; he married Ruby Eileen Somers in 1942.
Whistler was commissioned by Marion Farquhar's mother in March 1895 to paint her daughter's portrait for $2000. Whistler told Mrs Harold Stanton Peck, 'it would be, for me, a rare delight to paint your daughter - seldom indeed has one this wonderful chance of daintiness and lovely colour combined!' Portrait of Miss Marion Peck (YMSM 439) shows Farquhar full-length in evening dress with a long white, green lined cloak. In June of that year the portrait was supposedly completed and the artist paid, but a year later Whistler was proposing further sittings. On 12 November 1896 the New York Sun reported that Mrs Peck's daughter had given Whistler over 90 sittings but that he refused to send the portrait to Chicago. Sittings continued in London in July 1897 but were interupted by Whistler's illness in October 1897. In April 1898 Marion posed in Paris. Further sittings were proposed in 1899.
On 7 April 1900 Whistler wrote to Marion Farquhar: 'I always see you the same wonderful and beautiful lady surrounded with the gold and mystery of the Venetian gallery from which you have just stepped into my studio'. In June 1900 the family still did not have the portrait and William Farquhar made an attempt to either have the payment returned or receive the picture of his wife. Whistler returned the money and the picture remained incomplete at his death.
Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980.