Philip Richard Morris, the son of a Devonport ironfounder, was a painter by profession. He married a Mrs Sargentson.
Morris came into contact with Whistler through the artist Matthew Robinson Elden, a mutual friend, and in 1873 sat for Whistler in order that Whistler might finish painting the coat for Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle (YMSM 137).
However, in September and October 1877 Whistler quarrelled with Elden. He wrote to Morris on 15 October 1877 of 'the flaw in the friendship like the crack in the china - it is useless to explain - the true ring has gone for ever'. Describing their old friendship, Whistler emotively declared: 'Have you forgotten our old walks & talks in Chelsea? I had taken you into the intimacy of my work and believed in you as a strong sympathizer with whom all the mysteries of the studio might be freely shared - I made no secret of my daily experience but willingly offered these to my chosen companion & from painter to painter no confidences could have been more unrestricted' (#12825).
The reason for the quarrel lay in the fact that F. R. Leyland, having commissioned Whistler to paint Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland (YMSM 106), but having not received it despite the painting's exhibition in 1874, commissioned Morris to paint the work. Whistler was further incensed at a request from Morris for the name of his frame-maker. He is said to have replied, 'If you've got the portrait then for God's sake have the frame'. The resulting portrait was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1878. Whistler's portrait was eventually delivered to Leyland, and in 1906 both portraits were hanging in the sitter's drawing room.
Morris was a member of The Arts Club from 1875 until 1901. He was then living at 11 Queens Road, West Chelsea, and had a studio in Arber House, Grove End Place, now 33 St John's Road.
Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; Pennell, Joseph, and Elizabeth Robins Pennell, The Joseph and Elizabeth Robins Pennell Collection of Whistleriana Shown in Division of Prints, Library of Congress, Southwest Pavilion, Washington, G.P.O. Library Branch, 1921; Bénézit, E., Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 8 vols, Paris, 1956-61; Merrill, Linda, The Peacock Room. A Cultural Biography, New Haven and London, 1998; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980.