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Collectors and donors

Guy John Fenton Knowles (1879-1959)

The major donor of the Fitzwilliam’s Whistler collection, including a group of drawings. Some of these he inherited from his parents. His father Charles Julius Knowles knew Legros (who gave him drawings by Ingres) and Rodin; as a boy Guy was allowed to play with clay in Rodin’s studio. Guy’s mother Loyse Knowles showed a group of her Whistler drawings to Charles Freer in 1903, possibly at Whistler’s instigation.

Elizabeth, Lady Lewis (1844-1931)

Elizabeth Lewis was wife of the lawyer George Lewis, who represented many artists and writers, including Whistler and Oscar Wilde. Elizabeth was one of the leading hostesses of the day and their house in Portland Place was frequented by artists and writers such as Whistler, Wilde, Henry James and Edward Burne Jones, who painted Elizabeth’s portrait. Whistler always addressed her affectionately as ‘Mrs George’, even after her husband’s knighthood in 1893, by which time she signed her letters to him ‘Betty’.

Katherine Lewis (1878-1961)

Katie Lewis was daughter of Elizabeth and George Lewis. She was painted as a child by Burne Jones, and in later life her circle of friends included Osbert Sitwell, Max Beerbohm and Bernard Berenson. She once boasted that she had been

‘kissed by the most distinguished men of [my] time, beginning with Burne-Jones and Oscar Wilde’

Katherine Anne Riches (1868-1950)

Granddaughter of the artist John Linnell. Early in 1894 she married the sculptor Thomas Nelson MacLean (1845-94), who had been an ally and collector of Whistler (including a print given to him by the artist’s mother in 1872, see Limehouse). MacLean died only a few months after their marriage. In 1909 Katharine married Thomas Henry Riches (1865-1935), and between them they made major donations to the Fitzwilliam, including notable groups of Japanese prints and works by William Blake (some of which Katharine had inherited through the Linnell family). The group of prints that Katharine gave in 1923 included ten Whistlers and two by Théodore Roussel, most of which my have come from her first husband’s collection: the pair by Roussel bear dedications from the artist to MacLean, and three of the Whistlers have inscriptions by Maclean (The Kitchen, Limehouse and Eagle Wharf.

Sir Herbert Thompson (1859-1944)

A lawyer who turned to medicine before becoming an eminent Egyptologist (he founded a chair of Egyptology at Cambridge University). His wide-ranging gift included ceramics and works by Fantin-Latour, Whistler and Legros. Some came from the collection of Ruth and Edwin Edwards, who were hosts to these artists in England. Others were inherited from his father, the surgeon Sir Henry Thompson (1820-1904), who had taken drawing lessons from Legros and was one of Fantin-Latour’s principal patrons in England; his collection of Chinese porcelain was illustrated by Whistler.

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