Detail from The Canal, Amsterdam, 1889, James McNeill Whistler, The Hunterian, University of Glasgow


Rosa Frances Corder

Birthname: Rosa Frances Corder
Nationality: English
Date of birth: 1853.05.18
Place of birth: London
Date of death: 1893.11.28
Place of death: Vale Lodge, Fordham, Cambridgeshire
Category: artist


Rosa Frances Corder was an English artist. She was the daughter of Micah Corder (1808-88), a lighterman, and Charlotte Hill. From ca 1873, she was the mistress of Charles A. Howell, entrepreneur, and sometime associate of Whistler's. Their daughter Beatrice Ellen Howell was born in 1883.


Corder studied music under Felix Moscheles. She also took to art and from Howell learnt to make copies of eighteenth century portraits and erotic drawings by Henry Fuseli. Whistler taught her etching. D. G. Rossetti seems to have met her in 1874 and her name was later associated with drawings allegedly his. She also made a copy after John Everett Millais' Vale of Rest (1857). For a time she had a studio at Newmarket and painted racehorses. Corder also painted portraits. Her sitters included Algernon Graves in 1878 and F. R. Leyland in 1882, both of whom also sat for Whistler. Corder's portrait of Graves was reproduced in Graves' Art Sales, from early in the eighteenth century to early in the twentieth century (1918). There is a drypoint of her by Mortimer Menpes -indeed Howell gave an impression of this to the British Museum.

Some time after 1873 Howell commissioned Whistler to paint Corder's portrait for £100 and said he would arrange with the London printsellers H. Graves & Co. for an engraving to be published. Corder posed for Arrangement in Brown and Black: Portrait of Miss Rosa Corder y203 in a brown dress against a darkened doorway. The work, which was finished in September 1878, was received favourably by the press. W. Graham Robertson, who described Corder as 'gentle and crushed looking', declared that Whistler's painting made 'her proud and stately'. It was one of the paintings that Whistler exhibited at the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers in 1898. She and Whistler were in correspondence around the time of the painting of the portrait.


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 F., Susan Galassi, Aileen Ribeiro, and Patricia de Montfort, Whistler, Women and Fashion, New Haven and London, 2003 . Morgan, Gary, The Etched Work of Mortimer Menpes, cat. no. 12. Preston, Kerrison (ed.), Letters of W. Graham Robertson, London, 1953 , pp. 95, 368.

The Correspondence of James McNeill Whistler, 1855-1903, edited by Margaret F. MacDonald, Patricia de Montfort and Nigel Thorp. University of Glasgow, 2003.