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


Lilian Pettigrew

Title: Miss
Birthname: Lilian Sanderson Pettigrew
Alias: Lily, Lillian, Mrs John Boyden Barrett
Nationality: English
Date of birth: 4 March 1870
Place of birth: Portsmouth
Date of death: after 1939
Place of death: unknown
Category: model


Lilian ('Lily') Pettigrew was a professional model in London. She was the daughter of William Pettigrew (b. 1819), a cork cutter, and Harriet Davis, a needleworker, who had married in 1853. They had thirteen children in all. In the 1871 census her name is given as 'Lillian', in 1891 as 'Lillian S.' and in her marriage certificate as 'Lilian Sanderson Pettigrew'. Lily's older sister Harriet ('Hetty') and her younger sister Rose Amy were also models.

Alternative birth dates for Lilian have been published, including 25 February 1870.

Lily married John Boyden Barrett on 1 April 1898. In 1901 they were living in Chiswick, and by 1939, in Sussex. No further records have been located.


Lily came to London around 1884 when she was just fourteen years old. She and her sisters first posed for John Everett Millais' An Idyll of 1745 (Lady Lever Art Gallery) in 1884. Millais described them as 'three little gypsies... with the characteristic carelessness of their race, they just came when they liked'. The three girls also posed for Rudolph Onslow Ford, William Holman Hunt, Frederic Leighton, Edward Poynter, Val Prinsep, John Singer Sargent, Walter Sickert and Philip Wilson Steer.

Lily, like her sisters, posed for Whistler. Around 1895 Whistler painted her portrait, Portrait Study of Lily Pettigrew y434, and in 1898/1902 he painted her as 'a sort of Eve with an Apple in her hand', Eve y491. She also posed for a number of pastels including Mother and Child - The Pearl m1290 and possibly A nude with red hair m1384. 1384. In her memoirs, Rose described her sister Lily as having 'most beautiful curly red hair, violet eyes, a beautiful mouth, classic nose, and beautifully shaped face, long neck, well set, and a most exquisite figure; in fact she was perfection!'

The sisters also posed for photographs by Linley Sambourne (1844-1910), which are in the Library of the Royal Borough of Kensington.


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, 'Pettigrew sisters', in Jiminez, Jill Berk (ed.), Dictionary of Artists' Models, Chicago, 2001.

Walker, Dave, Category Archives: 'Edward Linley Sambourne, Mr Sambourne’s studio', The Library Archives, August 29, 2013, website blog.

Pettigrew, Neil, 'The Beautiful Miss Pettigrews', The British Art Journal, vol. 15, no. 1 (Autumn 2014), pp. 3-15, on jstor at website at (acc. 2020).

History Stack Exchange website at (acc. 2020).