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


Ionides Alexander

Alias: Aleco
Nationality: English
Date of birth: 1840
Place of birth: London
Date of death: 1898
Place of death: London
Category: collector


Alexander ('Aleco') Ionides was a businessman and friend of artists. He was the youngest son of shipping owner and collector, Alexander Constantine Ionides (1810-1890) and Euterpe Sgouta (1816-1892). His siblings Constantine (1833-1900), Aglaia Coronio (1834-1906) and Luke (1837-1924) were also collectors. On 14 September 1875 he married Isabella Sechiari (1853-1913), daughter of Ambrose Sechiari and Penolope Zizinias. They had five children.


Alexander Ionides was a member of the Greek merchant family who were generous patrons and supporters of artists. Whilst studying in Paris, Ionides met Whistler shortly after his arrival in 1855, and with his elder brother Luke was among Whistler's earliest patrons. The family home at 9 Finsbury Circus, Tulse Hill, South London became a gathering place for artists, writers and musicians. Along with the rest of the 'Paris Gang', Du Maurier, Armstrong and Poynter, Whistler was a frequent visitor.

Ionides collected paintings by the Pre-Raphaelites, Burne-Jones, Rossetti, Fantin-Latour and Legros, and several by Whistler (see Sea and Rain y065, Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso Bay y076, Green and Grey: The Oyster Smacks, Evening y099, Arrangement in Grey: Portrait of the Painter y122).

He also collected Tanagra figurines and in 1894 asked Whistler to help him sell his collection. When Whistler agreed, he sent a photograph album of the statuettes, in which Whistler copied one of the photographs (Sketch after a Greek terracotta figure m1419). When Whistler failed to find a buyer for the Ionides collection in Munich, he approached D. C. Thomson of Goupil's (GUW #08306). Having tried, but failed, to find a buyer for the Tanagras, Whistler was annoyed when Ionides sold his Whistlers. (#02364).

After his parents' retirement to Hastings in 1875, Aleco presided over their house at 1 Holland Park, where he commissioned Thomas Jeckyll to add a Japanese style billiard room and employed Morris & Co. to redecorate several rooms. He was Greek Consul-General in London 1884-94.


Butterworth, Dorothea, Ionides Family Tree, [privately published], 1936; Metaxas, K. H., 'The Ionides: a Greek family in Britain: family tree', The Greek Gazette, December 1995; Macleod, Dianne Sachko, Art and the Victorian Middle Class: Money and the Making of Cultural Identity, Cambridge, 1996 , p. 433.