Beatrice Whistler (née Birnie Philip) was born, probably in London, on 12 May 1857, the second daughter of John Birnie Philip, the sculptor, and Frances Black. In 1876 she married the architect Edward William Godwin, who died in 1886; they had one son, who became a sculptor. Godwin introduced Beatrice to James McNeill Whistler, with whom she studied, and for whom she posed.
Her earliest works were small portraits and delicate decorative drawings and watercolors of birds and flowers. From about 1886 she produced a number of small panels, chiefly of girls reading, with plain backgrounds. Between 1887 and 1888 Beatrice exhibited two small panel paintings at the Royal Society of British Artists. She drew portraits and figures in chalk throughout her life, and also engaged in book illustration and designs for jewelery. She was an accomplished etcher and was capable of witty caricatures.
In 1888 Beatrice married Whistler. Although she was a Gallophobe and never learned to speak French, she settled with her husband in Paris in 1892. Whistler had been proud of her as a pupil, encouraged her talent (she designed a fine and richly colored memorial window for All Saints, Orton, Cumbria, between 1891 and 1892), and was devoted to her as a wife. Beatrice, who was known as Trixie, was spirited and charming, but her health had never been good, and she died of cancer at Hampstead, London, at a comparatively early age, on 10 May 1896.
[Hayes, John. British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 325-326.]
MacDonald, Margaret F. "Beatrice Whistler." Unpuplished article, n.d.
Pennell, Elizabeth Robins and Joseph. The Life of James McNeill Whistler. 2 vols. London and Philadelphia, 1908: 2.
Young, Andrew McLaren, et al. The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler. 2 vols. New Haven and London, 1980: 1:xv, particularly 140.
Hayes, John. British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 325-326.