Reginald John Whistler was born in Britain on 24 June 1905, at Eltham, greater London. In May 1919 he was sent to boarding school at Haileybury, where he showed a talent for art, providing set designs for play productions.

After school, Whistler was accepted at the Royal Academy but disliked the regime there and was “sacked for incompetence”. He then continued his studies at the Slade School of Art, where he met Stephen Tennant, soon to become one of his best friends and a model for some of the figures in his works. Through Tennant, he later met the poet Siegfried Sassoon and his wife Hester, to both of whom Whistler became close.

Rex Whistler was a favourite of the smart set, with many celebrity friends and famous clients.  His social life was as active as his professional life and the two often overlapped.  By the time of his tragically early death at age 39, he had already produced a huge quantity of work.

From his first commission for the Tate Gallery restaurant mural at the age of 23 to his last works for film and theatre, he was in constant demand as a designer, illustrator, muralist and portrait painter.