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


Lilian Pamington

Title: Miss
Birthname: Lilian Augusta Pamington
Alias: Lillie
Nationality: British
Date of birth: 1887
Place of birth: London.
Category: model


'Lillie' Pamington was probably Lilian Pamington (born on 19 June 1887 and baptised on 3 July 1887, in St Silas, Pentonville). Her father, Stephen Lewis Pamington, an elecrical engineer, was born ca 1866, and her mother, Ada, in 1868. She was living in Shoreditch in 1891, Willesden in 1901 and Finsbury, London, 1911. The 1911 census records her as working as a dressmaker, living with her mother, a dress maker, and father ('chauffeur mechanic') in Clerkenwall Street. She had one brother, Stephen, who was two years older than her.

In 1939 'Lily Pamington' and her mother (born '25 May 68') were listed in the 1939 England and Wales Register, Lily as a 'Machinist (Gov Works)', both living in Islington. Ada died in Islington in 1951.


Red-haired Lillie Pamington was a child model discovered by Whistler, who, in his later years would take a cab through the poorer streets of London looking for suitable models. She arrived at Whistler's studio with her mother and her hair 'frizzed and curled ... in a way that he considered frightful'. He had to explain that he wanted to paint her as he had originally found her. Very little is known about her life, but she became one of Whistler's favourite models. There are about ten known portraits of her.

There are some difficulties in identifying Whistler's late models. In 1900 he wrote to the housekeeper at the Fitzroy Street studio, '... if Eva and little Lillie turn up, kindly let them stay down in the warm kitchen until they can be seen by Miss Philip.' Whistler to Mrs Burkitt, [30 October 1900], GUW #11207. In 1900 Lillie Pamington could have been described as 'little Lillie' (if she was the Lilian Pamington recorded in the census from 1891 on, she would have been about eight years old). So the presumably older 'Eva' could have been related to her or chaperoning Lillie, or indeed she could have also been a model. At that date, the only known model called 'Eva' was Eva Carrington, whose sister Gladys also modelled for Whistler. Was Whistler mix-and-matching his models?

It was probably in 1901 that Whistler sent Lillie to his dentist, asking him to stop her pain 'at once by your magic', writing: 'I depend upon this pretty child - little Lillie Pamington - "The Golden Lillie" - for the making of my pictures'.Whistler to W. S. Davenport, [1901], formerly dated [1897/1900], GUW #09072. She was presumably the model for The Golden Lily y542, which was exhibited at the ISSPG in 1901.

Lillie Pamington appears in at least eight of Whistler's known portraits: Study for 'Brown and Gold: Lillie "In our Alley!" ' y463, Brown and Gold: Lillie 'In our Alley!' y464, Lillie: An Oval y465, Lillie Pamington y466, Green and Gold: The Little Green Cap y467, The Little Red Glove y468, Grenat et or: Le Petit Cardinal y469, and Girl in Black y470.

On 16 December 1903 Whistler's sister-in-law, ward and executrix, Rosalind Birnie Philip, thanked Marcus B. Huish of the Fine Art Society for helping her to discover 'the unworthiness of the Pamington family' (note in GUL BP Whistler 13/253), but there is no record of what caused her disillusionment.


Shaw, Edith, and Margaret F. MacInnes, 'Four Years with Whistler', Apollo, vol. 87, March 1968, pp. 198-201; 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 .

England and Wales Census, 1891, 1901 and 1911.