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


Maud Franklin

Title: Mrs Little (later), Mrs R. H. S. Abbott
Birthname: Mary Franklin
Alias: Clifton Lin
Nationality: English
Date of birth: 1857.01.09
Place of birth: Bicester, Oxfordshire
Date of death: 1941
Place of death: Cannes
Category: model


Maud Franklin was Whistler's model and mistress. She was christened Mary after her mother, Mary Clifton, and in later years exhibited paintings under the name 'Clifton Lin'. Her father, Charles Franklin, was a cabinet maker and upholsterer and she had two brothers and three sisters. Maud sometimes called herself 'Mrs Whistler' and indeed at the time of the 1881 census gave her married name as 'Mary M. Whistler'. It is known that she had at least two daughters: Maud Mary Whistler Franklin who was born on 13 February 1879, and Ione, born on 15 October, possibly in 1876 or 1877. The child Maud died at an early age, and Ione was brought up by foster parents; she later married Warwick A. Tyler, on 14 October 1899.

Eventually Maud married a wealthy New Yorker, John A. Little, and had a son, John Franklin Little. He came to live in Sausolito, CA, near his half-sister, Ione, who looked after him for two years until his death in 1948. After Little's death in 1904, Maud was married again, in about 1911, to another New Yorker, Richard H. S. Abbott. They lived in Yport and at Villa Mon Gri near Cannes until her death on 18 November 1939.


It is not known exactly when Maud began to pose for Whistler, but she is said to have stood in for Mrs Leyland for Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland y106, which was first exhibited in 1874. She was then only seventeen. She was also the original model for what became a portrait of Florence Leyland (Portrait of Miss Florence Leyland y107) and for the completed version of Harmony in Grey and Peach Colour y131 (see Study in Grey and Pink m0470, The White Girl m0471). One of the earliest portraits of her is Portrait of Maud Franklin y094.

In the mid-1870s she was installed as Whistler's model and became his mistress and partner until his marriage in 1888. She was beautiful, passionate, artistic and, as a model, sensitive and expressive. She posed for some of Whistler's finest etchings (Maud, Standing [169],The Letter (Maud, seated) [116], The Desk [129]) and lithographs (such as Study: Maud Seated c005 and The Toilet c010). Portraits of her include Portrait of Maud Franklin y094; The Blue Girl: Maud Franklin y112; Harmony in Grey and Peach Colour y131; Maud Franklin y132; Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket y181; Arrangement in Brown y182; Arrangement in Yellow and Grey: Effie Deans y183; Arrangement in White and Black y185; A Portrait: Maud y186; Harmony in Pink and Red y192; Arrangement in Blue and Green y193; Maud Franklin y194; Arrangement in Black: Girl Reading y223; Harmony in Black and Red y236; Note in Red: The Siesta y254; Portrait of Maud Franklin y353; Harmony in Black, No. 10 y357 and Maud y358. She also posed for drawings, pastels and watercolours including Portrait of Miss Maud Franklin m0896, Pink note - The Novelette m0900 and Maud seated in the open m0926.

Whistler called his portraits of Maud 'artist's' pictures (GUW #05136 and many are often personal works revealing the close relationship between artist and model.

During the time of the Ruskin trial, Maud was pregnant, and Whistler behaved extremely badly towards her. Leaving Maud at a hotel in January 1879, he pretended he was going to Paris, sending letters under cover to George Lucas in Paris to be sent back to her in London. It is not clear whether Maud ever realized the deception practiced on her. When the little girl was born, she was registered without a father's name, although with 'Whistler' as one of her middle names; Maud giving her profession as artist.

After Whistler's bankruptcy, the baby apparently went to foster parents and Maud joined him in Venice; she cooked and entertained his friends, but was not 'received' in society. She may have helped to print and sell the Venetian etchings on their return.

Perhaps because of her pregnancies, Maud's health suffered, and a number of watercolours in the eighties show her in bed (see Girl reading in bed m0867, Maud reading in bed m0899, Pink note - The Novelette m0900). She painted alongside Whistler's followers and exhibited at the Grosvenor and the Society of British Artists. There were tremendous rows between Maud and Beatrice Godwin before Whistler's marriage in 1888. Maud went to convalesce at the home of William Stott of Oldham, where she heard the news of Whistler's marriage. She later departed for Paris where she modeled a little and later refused to speak to biographers about Whistler.


UK census 1881; Will admitted for probate, copy dated 9 March 1962, Spirer papers, University of Glasgow; 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., 'Maud Franklin', in: Ruth Fine (ed.), James McNeill Whistler: A Reexamination, Studies in the History of Art, vol. 19, Washington, DC, 1987, pp. 13-26 ; 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 .