Helen Rose Huth, née Ogilvy, was the daughter of Thomas Ogilvy, a merchant from Corrimony, Inverness-shire, and Elizabeth Ogilvy, née Wilson. She married the collector and Director of The London Assurance for Fire, Life and Marine Assurance, Louis Huth, who died in 1905.
In 1907 she married Archibald Barwell How (1860-1947), son of William and Louisa Katharine How (née Ardil), who was a classical scholar, a lecturer (1884) and Fellow (1886-1919) at Exeter College, Cambridge. He was Bursar of the college from 1892-1919, and became an Honorary Fellow on his retirement in 1919.
The Huths were collectors of the works of George Frederick Watts and Whistler. They owned Symphony in White, No. 3 y061, Variations in Pink and Grey: Chelsea y105, The Bridge; flesh colour and brown m0759, The Storm - Sunset m0808 and Fishing Boats m0819.
Helen Huth posed to Whistler for her portrait in 1872, around the same time as Frances Leyland. Drawings for both portraits were made on a single sheet of paper, r.: Study for 'Arrangement in Black, No. 2: Portrait of Mrs Louis Huth'; v.: Study for 'Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink: Portrait of Mrs Frances Leyland' m0454. Helen Huth was not strong but Whistler would keep her standing for 3 hour sessions. However, at times a model stood for her black velvet gown.
The portrait, Arrangement in Black, No. 2: Portrait of Mrs Louis Huth y125, was finished and bought by Louis Huth early in 1873. It shows Whistler's admiration for Velásquez, an appreciation shared by Louis Huth. Her portrait had been previously painted by Watts.
The Huths were included in a list by Whistler that may have been a guest list for his 1874 Pall Mall exhibition or a subscription list for his Venice etchings as envisaged in 1876. They were then living at 28 Hertford Street, Mayfair. In 1901 at the time of the census, Helen Huth was living in Waldron, East Sussex.
UK Census, 1901; 'Mr. A. B. How', Times, London, 3 March 1947, p. 6; Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908 ; 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 .