George Frederick Watts

1817 - 1904

Biography

George Frederick Watts enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools in 1835 but left soon afterwards to work in the atelier of the sculptor William Behnes, who communicated to Watts his unstinting admiration for classical Greek sculpture. He received a single painting lesson from an unidentified miniaturist, who explained to him which colours were most appropriate to use in order to copy an original portrait by Peter Lely. This rudimentary apprenticeship appears to have been adequate, as Watts demonstrated from the start of his career a firm grasp of style and line and soon made rapid progress.

 

His first ever client and subsequent patron was Constantin Lourdes, whose portrait he painted in 1840 (members of the Lourdes family had sat for portraits for five successive generations). The allegorical style that Watts adopted was in line with the Pre-Raphaelite approach; this is at its most evident in his best-known composition, Hope, painted in 1886 and now in London’s Tate Gallery. Watts entered the competition for decorations for the new Parliament buildings and secured one of three first prizes for his Caractacus Borne in Triumph through the Streets of Rome, which earned him more than enough to underwrite a visit to Italy. In Florence, he was warmly received by the English envoy to the court of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who invited him to stay at the British Embassy at Casa Ferroni and at his own country residence, the Villa Careggi. Watts spent four years in Italy, during which time he started experimenting with fresco compositions. Some examples of his fresco work are still on view at the Villa Careggi. It is worth noting that he did not copy one single artist but rather drew inspiration from many, although he was particularly impressed by the work of Titian.

 

He returned to London in 1847 and again won a first prize in the competition for decorations for the new Parliament building, this time with a King Alfred Inciting the Saxons to Resist the Danes preparing to Land in England. The painting earned him a substantial fee, as did a subsequent commission to paint a mural of St George Slaying the Dragon. Watts painted his first ‘English’ frescoes in 1858. Although his body of work chiefly comprises portraits, he has frequently been compared to Puvis de Chavannes for his murals.

 

He made his exhibition debut at the Royal Academy in 1837 and continued to exhibit his small portraits, genre compositions and still-lifes on a regular basis thereafter. In 1841 (?), he made his first appearance at the British Institution, to which he submitted only six compositions throughout his entire career. His original submission was entitled Vertumnus and Pomona. He was admitted to associate membership of the Royal Academy in 1867 and to full membership in 1868. He was also an honorary member of the Cambrian Academy. He exhibited at the 1878 Exposition Universelle in Paris and was awarded the cross of the Légion d’Honneur.

Group Exhibitions

 

1978, The Victorian High Renaissance, Manchester City Art Gallery

1994, Heaven on Earth: The Religion of Beauty in Late Victorian Art, Djanogly Art Gallery, Nottingham

Solo Exhibitions

 

1974, G.F. Watts, 1817-1904: A Nineteenth-Century Phenomenon, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London

2006, Painting the Cosmos: Landscapes by G.F. Watts, Watts Gallery, Compton

Museum and Gallery Holdings

 

Aberdeen (AG and Mus.): Orpheus and Eurydice (1869, oil on canvas); Eve Tempted (1881, oil on canvas); Self-portrait (1882, oil on canvas)

Birmingham (Mus. and AG): Roman Lady; Portrait of Edward Burne-Jones (1870, oil on canvas); Britomart (c. 1878, oil on canvas, character from the ‘Faerie Queene’ by Edmund Spencer); Little Red Riding Hood (1890, oil on canvas)

Bristol (City Mus. & AG): Love and Death (1875, oil on canvas); Death and the Pale Horse (oil on canvas)

Compton (Watts Gal.): large collection of works

Dublin: a sketch

Glasgow (Kelvingrove AG and Mus.): Charity (1898, oil)

Edinburgh (Nat. Gal. of Scotland): Mischief (oil/panel)

Edinburgh (Scottish Nat. Portrait Gal.): Baron Francis Napier (1866, oil/panel)

Essen: Death and the Messenger

Florence (Uffizi): Self-portrait (1880)

Leicester: Orlando Pursuing Fata Morgana

Liverpool (Walker AG): Sir Galahad (oil on canvas); Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: The Rider on the Black Horse (c. 1878, oil on canvas); Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: The Rider on the White Horse (c. 1878, oil on canvas); Europa (c. 1870-1894, oil on canvas); Wife of Plutus (c. 1880-1889, oil on canvas); Court of Death (1881); Love and Death; Love and Life; Hope; Cupid Asleep (1893); Promises

London (National Portrait Gal.): Sir Anthony Panizzi (c. 1847, oil on canvas); Julia Margaret Cameron (1850-1852, oil on canvas); John Russell, 1st Earl Russell (c. 1851, oil on canvas); Edmund Lyons, 1st Baron Lyons (1856-1857, oil on canvas); Stratford Canning, Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe (1856-1857, oil/panel); William Ewart Gladstone (1859, oil/panel); George Frederic Watts (c. 1860, oil/panel); George Douglas Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll (c. 1860, oil/panel); John Singleton Copley, Baron Lyndhurst (1862, oil/panel); Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury (1862, oil/panel); John Laird Mair Lawrence, 1st Baron Lawrence (1862, oil/panel); Henry Hart Milman (c. 1863, oil on canvas); Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson (c. 1863-1864, oil on canvas); Dame (Alice) Ellen Terry (‘Choosing’) (c. 1864, oil, two versions); Robert Browning (1866, oil on canvas); Algernon Charles Swinburne (1867, oil on canvas); Thomas Carlyle (1868, oil on canvas); Sir Henry Taylor (c. 1868-1870, oil on canvas); William Morris (1870, oil on canvas); Sir Charles Hallé (c. 1870, oil on canvas); Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Bt (1871, oil on canvas); Dante Gabriel Rossetti (c. 1871, oil on canvas); John Stuart Mill (1873, oil on canvas, replica); James Martineau (1873, oil on canvas, replica); Sir John Peter Grant (after 1873, oil on canvas); Robert Lowe, 1st Viscount Sherbrooke (c. 1874, oil on canvas); William Edward Hartpole Lecky (1878, oil on canvas); George Frederic Watts (c. 1879, oil on canvas); Matthew Arnold (1880, oil on canvas); Frederic Leighton, Baron Leighton (1881, oil on canvas); Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, 1st Marquess of Dufferin and Ava (1881, oil on canvas); Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury (1882, oil on canvas); Henry Edward Manning (1882, oil on canvas); Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton (1884, oil on canvas); Sir Andrew Clark, 1st Bt (1893, oil on canvas); George Meredith (1893, oil on canvas); Friedrich Max-Müller (1894-1895, oil on canvas); Cecil John Rhodes (1898, oil on canvas, unfinished)

London (NG): Panoramic Landscape with a Farmhouse (c. 1845, oil on canvas, attributed)

London (Royal Academy of Arts): The Death of Cain (c. 1872-1875, oil on canvas); Portrait of Frederick, Lord Leighton (1890, oil on canvas); Portrait of Carlo, Baron Marochetti (oil on canvas)

London (Tate Collection): Psyche (1880, oil on canvas); Mammon (1884-1885, oil on canvas); The Dweller in the Innermost (c. 1885-1886, oil on canvas); `For he had great possessions’ (1894, oil on canvas); Dray Horses (c. 1863-1875, oil on canvas); The Minotaur (1885, oil on canvas); Death Crowning Innocence (1886-1887, oil on canvas); Jonah (1894, oil on canvas); The Spirit of Christianity (1873-1875, oil on canvas); Sic Transit (1891-1892, oil on canvas); Faith (c. 1890-1896, oil on canvas); Hope (1886, oil on canvas); Love and Life (c. 1884-1885, oil on canvas); Eve Tempted (exhibited in 1884, oil on canvas); ‘She shall be called woman’ (c. 1875-1892, oil on canvas); Eve Repentant (c. 1865-1897, oil on canvas); Love and Death (c. 1885-1887, oil on canvas); The Messenger (c. 1884-1885, oil on canvas); Chaos (c. 1875-1882, oil on canvas)

London (Victoria and Albert Mus.): Seat by the Window; Daphne Bathing; Thomas Carlyle; Three Fresco Studies

Manchester (City AG): The Good Samaritan (1850, oil on canvas); May Prinsep Title: Prayer (1867, oil on canvas); Paolo and Francesca (1870, oil on canvas); A Greek Idyll (1894, oil on canvas)

Manchester (Whitworth Art Gallery): Love and Death (1877-1887, oil on canvas)

Melbourne: Death and Love; Lord Tennyson

Munich: Happy Warrior

New York (Metropolitan Mus. of Art): Ariadne in Naxos (1894)

Norwich (Castle Mus. and AG): Study for Britomart (1878, oil on canvas); The Outcast: Goodwill (oil on canvas); Study for the Court of Death (oil on canvas); The Curse of Cain (oil on canvas, sketch for diploma picture)

Nottingham (Castle Mus. & AG): Christian Spirit

Oxford (Ashmolean Mus.): The Brethren of Saturn Delivered (oil on canvas); Little Red Riding Hood (oil on canvas); Miss Eliza Ann Ogilvy (1866, oil on canvas); Time and Death (c. 1868, oil on cardboard)

Paris (Mus. d’Orsay): Love and Life (1893, oil on canvas); Eve Tempted (oil on canvas)

Preston: Spirit of Greek Poetry

Salford (Museum and AG): The Meeting of Esau and Jacob

Sheffield (Gal. and Mus.): Time, Death and Judgement (c. 1895, oil on canvas)

Sydney (AG of New South Wales): Artemis and Hyperion (1881, oil on canvas); Alice (1883, oil on canvas)

York (AG): Ararat (c. 1855, oil on canvas); The Bay of Naples (oil on canvas); Progress (oil on canvas)

Artworks

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Portrait of a Young Girl George Frederick Watts

c. 1889
Oil on canvas

£9,500.00

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Portrait of a Young Girl by George Frederick Watts