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George Frederic Watts

Paintings

Hope Print by George Frederic Watts

Hope

The Minotaur Print by George Frederic Watts

The Minotaur

The All Pervading Print by George Frederic Watts

The All Pervading

Watching for the Return of Theseus Print by George Frederic Watts

Watching for the Return of Theseus

Orpheus And Eurydice Print by George Frederic Watts

Orpheus And Eurydice

A Bacchante Print by George Frederic Watts

A Bacchante

Portrait of Norah Bourke Print by George Frederic Watts

Portrait of Norah Bourke

The Three Graces. The Three Goddesses. The Judgement of Paris Print by George Frederic Watts

The Three Graces. The Three Goddesses. The Judgement of Paris

She Shall be Called Woman Print by George Frederic Watts

She Shall be Called Woman

Love and Death Print by George Frederic Watts

Love and Death

Iris Print by George Frederic Watts

Iris

Lilian Print by George Frederic Watts

Lilian

Portrait of a Young Titled Girl Print by George Frederic Watts

Portrait of a Young Titled Girl

Study for Coriolanus Print by George Frederic Watts

Study for Coriolanus

Undine Print by George Frederic Watts

Undine

Ariadne Print by George Frederic Watts

Ariadne

A Study for Una and the Red Cross Print by George Frederic Watts

A Study for Una and the Red Cross

George Frederic Watts

Dame (Alice) Ellen Terry

George Frederic Watts

Sir Anthony Panizzi

George Frederic Watts

Chaos

George Frederic Watts

Edith Villiers, later Countess of Lytton

George Frederic Watts

She Shall be Called Woman

George Frederic Watts

Jonah

George Frederic Watts

Sir Charles Hallé (née Carl Halle)

George Frederic Watts

George Meredith

George Frederic Watts

Dame (Alice) Ellen Terry ('Choosing')

George Frederic Watts

Frederic Leighton, Baron Leighton

George Frederic Watts

George Frederic Watts

Henry Edward Manning

George Frederic Watts

Hamilton, Men I Have Painted

George Frederic Watts

Samuel Augustus Barnett

George Frederic Watts

Duke Of Devonshire

George Frederic Watts

John Singleton Copley, Baron Lyndhurst

George Frederic Watts

Stopford Augustus Brooke

George Frederic Watts

Frederick Temple Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, 1st Marquess of Dufferin and Ava

George Frederic Watts

Robert Lowe, 1st Viscount Sherbrooke

George Frederic Watts

Henry Hart Milman

George Frederic Watts

Robert Browning

George Frederic Watts

Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke, 2nd Bt

George Frederic Watts

Sir Andrew Clark, 1st Bt

George Frederic Watts

Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Bt

George Frederic Watts

Sir John Peter Grant

George Frederic Watts

George Douglas Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll

George Frederic Watts

James Martineau

George Frederic Watts

Edward Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton

George Frederic Watts

Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury

George Frederic Watts

Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury

George Frederic Watts

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

George Frederic Watts

George Frederic Watts

Sir Henry Taylor

George Frederic Watts

Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson

George Frederic Watts

Josephine Elizabeth Butler (née Grey)

George Frederic Watts

Charles Booth

George Frederic Watts

Julia Margaret Cameron

George Frederic Watts

Walter Crane

George Frederic Watts

Frederick Sleigh Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts

George Frederic Watts

William Ewart Gladstone

George Frederic Watts

Friedrich Max-Müller

George Frederic Watts

Sir (William Matthew) Flinders Petrie

George Frederic Watts

Admiral Henry John Chetwynd (1803-1868), 18th Earl of Shrewsbury

George Frederic Watts

George Frederic Watts

Dorothy Tennant

George Frederic Watts

Edith Villiers, Later the Countess of Lytton

George Frederic Watts

Emma Elizabeth Brandling, later Lady Lilford

George Frederic Watts

Endymion

George Frederic Watts

Frederic Lord Leighton

George Frederic Watts

Eve Tempted

George Frederic Watts

Red Riding Hood

George Frederic Watts

Found Drowned

George Frederic Watts

Una and the Red Cross Knight

George Frederic Watts

Good Luck to your Fishing

George Frederic Watts

Good Samaritan

George Frederic Watts

Henry Thoby Prinsep

George Frederic Watts

Hope

George Frederic Watts

George Frederic Watts

Horsemen Apocalypse Rider

George Frederic Watts

Jane Senior

George Frederic Watts

Lady-Halle

George Frederic Watts

Lila Prinsep

George Frederic Watts

Portrait of Miss May Prinsep

George Frederic Watts

Mrs Lillie Langtry

George Frederic Watts

Mrs G.F. Watts (Mary Seton Fraser Tytler)

George Frederic Watts

Ophelia

George Frederic Watts

Orlando Pursuing the Fata Morgana

George Frederic Watts

Orpheus and Eurydice

George Frederic Watts

Rachel and Laura Gurney

George Frederic Watts

Rachel Gurney

George Frederic Watts

Sir Leslie Stephen

George Frederic Watts

The Infancy of Zeus

George Frederic Watts

The Wife of Pygmalion

George Frederic Watts

Ariadne on the Island of Naxos

George Frederic Watts

Choosing

George Frederic Watts

Fata Morgana

George Frederic Watts

Love And Life

George Frederic Watts

Orpheus And Eurydice

George Frederic Watts

The Honourable Mary Baring

George Frederic Watts

The Judgement Of Paris

George Frederic Watts

For he had great possessions

George Frederic Watts

Adam and Eve

George Frederic Watts

Alpine landscape

George Frederic Watts

Ariadne

George Frederic Watts

Augusta Lady Castletown

George Frederic Watts

Charity

George Frederic Watts

Death Crowning Innocence

George Frederic Watts

Dorothy Tennant Later Lady Stanley

George Frederic Watts

Ellen Terry Asleep

George Frederic Watts

Ellen Terry At The Piano

George Frederic Watts

Eustace Smith

George Frederic Watts

Eve Tempted

George Frederic Watts

Eve tentee

George Frederic Watts

Eveleen Tennant later Mrs F.W.H. Myers exhibited

George Frederic Watts

Faith

George Frederic Watts

Four studies of a draped female figure

George Frederic Watts

Life's Illusions

George Frederic Watts

Mammon

George Frederic Watts

Miss Georgina Treherne

George Frederic Watts

Mrs Arthur Sassoon

George Frederic Watts

Mrs George Augustus Frederick Cavendish Bentinck and her Children

George Frederic Watts

Neptune's Horses

George Frederic Watts

Nude Studies Of Long Mary Two Being Studies For Eve

George Frederic Watts

Orpheus and Eurydic

George Frederic Watts

Panoramic Landscape with a Farmhouse

George Frederic Watts

Paulo And Francesca

George Frederic Watts

Petraia

George Frederic Watts

Portrait Of A Lady

George Frederic Watts

Portrait Of A Lady Possibly Julia Jackson

George Frederic Watts

Portrait Of Ellen Terry

George Frederic Watts

Portrait Of Miss Lilian Macintosh

George Frederic Watts

Portrait of Sir John Everett Millais

George Frederic Watts

Portrait Of The Artists Wife Mary

George Frederic Watts

Portrait Of The Countess Somers

George Frederic Watts

Portrait of Thomas Carlyle

George Frederic Watts

Psyche

George Frederic Watts

Self Portrait

George Frederic Watts

Sic Transit

George Frederic Watts

Sir Galahad

George Frederic Watts

Study For Coriolanus

George Frederic Watts

Study for Hyperion

George Frederic Watts

Study of Clouds

George Frederic Watts

The All Pervading

George Frederic Watts

The Court of Death

George Frederic Watts

The Creation of Eve

George Frederic Watts

The Denunciation of Adam and Eve

George Frederic Watts

The Denunciation Of Cain

George Frederic Watts

The Genius of Greek Poetry

George Frederic Watts

The Messenger

George Frederic Watts

The Spirit of Christianity

George Frederic Watts

The Temptation of Eve

George Frederic Watts

Time Death and Judgement

George Frederic Watts

Time Death and Judgement

George Frederic Watts

Violet Lindsay

George Frederic Watts

The Happy Warrior

George Frederic Watts

Matthew Arnold

George Frederic Watts

May Prinsep (Prayer)

George Frederic Watts

Sir Galahad

George Frederic Watts

She Shall be Called Woman.

George Frederic Watts

The Recording Angel

George Frederic Watts

The Dweller in the Innermost

George Frederic Watts

Girl with a Peacock fan

George Frederic Watts

The Judgement of Paris (The Three Graces)

George Frederic Watts

Orpheus and Eurydice

George Frederic Watts

Paolo and Francesca

George Frederic Watts

Love and Death

George Frederic Watts

Seascape

George Frederic Watts

Uldra

George Frederic Watts

William Cavendish, 7th Duke of Devonshire

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Hope Print by George Frederic Watts

Hope

George Frederic Watts, OM, RA (London 23 February 1817 – 1 July 1904) was a popular English Victorian painter and sculptor associated with the Symbolist movement. He said "I paint ideas, not things."[1] Watts became famous in his lifetime for his allegorical works, such as Hope and Love and Life. These paintings were intended to form part of an epic symbolic cycle called the "House of Life", in which the emotions and aspirations of life would all be represented in a universal symbolic language.

Life

Watts was born in Marylebone, London on the birthday of George Frederic Handel (after whom he was named), to the second wife of a poor piano-maker. Delicate in health and with his mother dying while he was still young, he was home-schooled by his father in a conservative interpretation of Christianity as well as via the classics such as the Iliad. The former put him off conventional religion for life, whilst the latter was a continual influence on his art. He showed artistic promise very early, learning sculpture from the age of 10 with William Behnes, starting to devotedly study the Elgin Marbles (later writing "It was from them alone that I learned") and then enrolling as a student at the Royal Academy at the age of 18. He first exhibited at the Academy in 1837.[1] He also began his portraiture career, receiving patronage from his close contemporary Alexander Constantine Ionides, with whom he later came to be a close friend.

He came to the public eye with a drawing entitled Caractacus, which was entered for a competition to design murals for the new Houses of Parliament at Westminster in 1843. Watts won a first prize in the competition, which was intended to promote narrative paintings on patriotic subjects, appropriate to the nation's legislature. In the end Watts made little contribution to the Westminster decorations, but from it he conceived his vision of a building covered with murals representing the spiritual and social evolution of humanity.[2]

The prize from the Westminster competition did, however, fund a long visit to Italy from 1843 onwards, where Watts stayed and became friends with the British ambassador Henry Fox, 4th Baron Holland and his wife Augusta at their homes in Casa Feroni and the Villa Careggi. Also whilst in Italy Watts began producing landscapes and was inspired by Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel and Giotto's Scrovegni Chapel. In 1847, whilst still in Italy, Watts entered a new competition for the Houses of Parliament with his image Alfred Inciting the Saxons to Prevent the Landing of the Danes by Encountering them at Sea, on a patriotic subject but using Phidean inspiration. Leaving Florence in April 1847 for what was intended to be a brief return to London, he ended up staying. Back in Britain he was unable to obtain a building in which to carry out his plan of a grand fresco based on his Italian experiences, though he did produce a 45 ft by 40 ft fresco on the upper part of the east wall of the Great Hall of Lincoln's Inn entitled Justice, A Hemicycle of Lawgivers inspired by Raphael's The School of Athens (completed 1859). In consequence most of his major works are conventional oil paintings, some of which were intended as studies for the House of Life.

In his studio he met Henry Thoby Prinsep (for 16 years a member of the Council of India) and his wife Sara (née Pattle). Watts thus joined the Prinsep circle of bohemians, including Sara's seven sisters (including Virginia, with whom Watts fell in love but who married Charles, Viscount Eastnor in 1850, and Julia Margaret Cameron). Previously staying at 48 Cambridge Street then in Mayfair, in 1850 he helped the Prinseps into a 21-year lease on Little Holland House and stayed there with them and their salon for the next 21 years. (The building was the dower house on the Hollands' London estate in Kensington, near the house of Lord Leighton.) One of only two pupils Watts ever accepted was Henry's son Valentine Cameron Prinsep (the other was John Roddam Spencer Stanhope - both remained friends but neither of the two became major artists).[3] While living as tenant at Little Holland House, Watts's epic paintings were exhibited in Whitechapel by his friend and social reformer Canon Samuel Barnett, and he finally received a commission for the Houses of Parliament, completing his The Triumph of the Red Cross Knight (from The Faerie Queene) in 1852-53. He also took a short trip back to Italy in 1853 (including Venice, where Titian became yet more of an inspiration) and with Charles Thomas Newton to excavate Halicarnassus in 1856-57, via Constantinople and the Greek islands.

In the 1860s, Watts' work shows the influence of Rossetti, often emphasising sensuous pleasure and rich color. Among these paintings is a portrait of his young wife, the actress Ellen Terry, who was 30 years his junior – having been introduced by mutual friend Tom Taylor, they married on 20 February 1864 just seven days short of her 17th birthday. When she eloped with another man after less than a year of marriage, Watts was obliged to divorce her. Watts's association with Rossetti and the Aesthetic movement altered during the 1870s, as his work increasingly combined Classical traditions with a deliberately agitated and troubled surface, in order to suggest the dynamic energies of life and evolution, as well as the tentative and transitory qualities of life. These works formed part of a revised version of the house of life, influenced by the ideas of Max Müller, the founder of comparative religion. Watts hoped to trace the evolving "mythologies of the races [of the world]" in a grand synthesis of spiritual ideas with modern science, especially Darwinian evolution.


With the lease on Little Holland House nearing its end and the building soon to be demolished, in the early 1870s he commissioned a new London home nearby from C. R. Cockerell (New Little Holland House, backing onto the estate of Lord Leighton) and acquired a house at Freshwater, Isle of Wight - his friends Julia Margaret Cameron and Lord Tennyson already had homes on the islands. To maintain his friendship with the Prinsep family as their children began leaving home, he built The Briary for them near Freshwater and adopted their relative Blanche Clogstoun. In 1877, his decree nisi from Ellen Terry finally came through and the Grosvenor Gallery was opened by his friend Coutts Lindsay - this was to prove his ideal venue for the next ten years.

In 1886 at the age of 69 Watts re-married, to Mary Fraser Tytler, a Scottish designer and potter, then aged 36. In 1891 he bought land near Compton, south of Guildford, in Surrey. The couple named the house "Limnerslease" (combining the words "limner" or artist with "leasen" or glean) and built the Watts Gallery nearby, a museum dedicated to his work –- the first (and now the only) purpose-built gallery in Britain devoted to a single artist –- which opened in April 1904, shortly before his death. Watts's wife Mary had designed the nearby earlier Watts Mortuary Chapel, which Watts paid for and also painted a version of The All-Pervading for the altar only three months before he died.[4]

Many of his paintings are held at the Tate Gallery – he donated 18 of his symbolic paintings to the Tate in 1897, and three more in 1900. Refusing the baronetcy twice offered him by Queen Victoria, he was elected as an Academician to the Royal Academy in 1867 and accepted the Order of Merit in 1902, in his own words on behalf of all English artists.


In his late paintings, Watts' creative aspirations mutate into mystical images such as The Sower of the Systems, in which Watts seems to anticipate abstract art. This painting depicts God as a barely visible shape in an energised pattern of stars and nebulae. Some of Watts' other late works also seem to anticipate the paintings of Picasso's Blue Period. He was also admired as a portrait painter. His portraits were of the most important men and women of the day, intended to form a "House of Fame". Many of these are now in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery – 17 were donated in 1895, with more than 30 more added subsequently. In his portraits Watts sought to create a tension between disciplined stability and the power of action. He was also notable for emphasising the signs of strain and wear on his sitter's faces. Sitters included Charles Dilke, Thomas Carlyle , James Martineau and William Morris.

During his last years Watts also turned to sculpture. His most famous work, the 1902 large bronze statue Physical Energy, depicts a naked man on horseback shielding his eyes from the sun as he looks ahead of him. It was originally intended to be dedicated to Muhammad, Attila, Tamerlane and Genghis Khan, thought by Watts to epitomise the raw energetic will to power. A cast was placed at Rhodes Memorial in Cape Town, South Africa, honouring the grandiose imperial vision of Cecil Rhodes. Watts' essay "Our Race as Pioneers" indicates his support for imperialism, which he believed to be a progressive force. There is also a casting of this work in London's Kensington Gardens, overlooking the north-west side of the Serpentine.
Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice

An admirer of royalty - he had painted Prince de Joinville and Edward, Prince of Wales - Watts proposed, in 1887, to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria by creating a Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice to commemorate ordinary people who had died saving the lives of others, and who might otherwise have been forgotten. The scheme was not accepted at that time, but in 1898 Watts was approached by Henry Gamble, vicar of St Botolph's Aldersgate church. He suggested the memorial could be created in Postman's Park in the City of London.

The memorial was unveiled in an unfinished state in 1900, consisting of a 50-foot (15 m) wooden loggia designed by Ernest George, sheltering a wall with space for 120 ceramic memorial tiles to be designed and made by William De Morgan. At the time of opening, only four of the memorial tiles were in place. Watts died in 1904, and his widow Mary Watts took over the running of the project.
Reception

Several reverent biographies of Watts were written shortly after his death. With the emergence of Modernism, however, his reputation declined. Virginia Woolf's comic play Freshwater portrays him in a satirical manner, an approach also adopted by Wilfred Blunt, former curator of the Watts Gallery, in his irreverent 1975 biography England's Michelangelo. In his 1988 book on Ruskin, the art critic Peter Fuller emphasized Watts's spiritual and stylistic importance, also noting that late post-symbolist works such as The Sower of the Systems "stretched beyond the brink of abstraction".[5] On the centenary of his death Veronica Franklin Gould published G.F. Watts: The Last Great Victorian, a positive study of his life and work.

The composer Charles Villiers Stanford wrote his Sixth Symphony "In Memoriam G. F. Watts". It was composed in 1905 and first performed on 18 January 1906 in London under Stanford's direction. The four movements, although not having a detailed programme, are inspired by several works of art by Watts.
References in popular culture

A picture by Watts is donated to a provincial museum by the protagonist of Elizabeth Taylor's 1953 novel Angel.

Watts is featured (not altogether favourably) as a character in Lynne Truss's comic novel Tennyson's Gift.

Watts' painting "Progress" is referenced in the book Bella Donna by Robert Hichens (p. 34).

References

Lucie-Smith, Edward. (1972) Symbolist Art. London: Thames & Hudson, p. 47. ISBN 0500201250
The complex history surrounding the decoration is best summarized by T. S. R. Boase, The Decorations of the New Palace of Westminster 1841-1863, in: Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 17:1954, pp. 319–358.
"Clouds". google.com. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
"Watts Chapel". compton-surrey.co.uk. Retrieved 2008-12-19.

Fuller, Peter. Theoria: Art and the Absence of Grace. London, Chatto and Windus, 1988.

Bibliography

Discovering the Sculptures of George Frederick Watts O.M., R.A. (1994) Elizabeth Hutchings ISBN 0-9521939-6-5
The Laurel and the Thorn; A Study of G. F. Watts (1945) by Ronald Chapman, Faber and Faber Ltd.

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