This portrait of 1882 is believed to be one of Guthrie’s first portrait commissions. It reveals his debt to James McNeill Whistler’s portraits from the 1870s that he had recently seen on display at the Grosvenor Gallery in London, particularly in the placement of the figure in the canvas and the use of an unidentified patterned background. His encounter with Whistler’s work was to have a lasting effect on Guthrie’s painting style. This portrait also reflects the contemporary fascination with Japanese prints. Margaret Helen Sowerby was the eldest daughter of J G Sowerby, Chairman of Sowerby’s Ellison Glassworks on Tyneside, the world’s largest producer of pressed glassware. It seems that Guthrie was introduced to Sowerby by his friend and fellow ‘Glasgow Boy’ Joseph Crawhall.