George Frederic Watts Biography | Oil Paintings
2-23-1817 Middlesex, ENG - 7-1-1904 Surrey, ENGBack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
George Frederic Watts was delicate in health as a youngster he had to stay home to take care of his dying mother, so he was home-schooled by his father in a conservative interpretation of Christianity as well as via the classics such as the Iliad. The harsh Christian teachings turned him off to conventional religion for life, but the study of the classics was a continual influence on his art. He showed artistic ability very early, after his mother died, he was able to leave the house and at the age of 10 he began learning sculpture with William Behnes, studying the Parthenon Marbles, later at eighteen he enrolled at the Royal Academy, and had his first exhibit at the Academy two years later in 1837.
George Frederic Watts came to the public's attention when he won the first prize with a drawing entitled Caractacus, which was entered for a competition to design murals for the new Houses of Parliament in 1843. The prize money from the competition funded a four-year visit to Italy from 1843 onward, Watts became friends and stayed with the British ambassador Henry Fox. Also while in Italy, he began painting landscapes and was inspired by Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel and Giotto's Scrovegni Chapel. There was a new competition for the Houses of Parliament in 1847, and from Italy, Watts entered an another drawing but he soon left Florence and returned to London.
In his studio in London, he met Henry Thoby Prinsep and his wife Sara and her seven sisters. Watts thus joined the Prinsep group of bohemians, he fell in love with one of Sara's sisters but she refused him and married the Viscount Eastnor. While living as a tenant at Little Holland House, Watts's epic paintings were exhibited in Whitechapel, and he finally received a commission for the Houses of Parliament, completing his The Triumph of the Red Cross Knight in 1852-53.
He was elected as an Academician to the Royal Academy in 1867. In the 1860s, Watts' work shows the influence of Rossetti and The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood often emphasizing sensuous pleasure and rich color. Among these paintings is a portrait of his young wife, the Ellen Terry, who was 30 years his junior, she was just shy of 17 years old, after one year she ran off with another man. In 1886 at the age of 69 George Frederic Watts re-married, to Mary Fraser Tytler, a Scottish designer and potter, then aged 36, and 33 years his junior! In 1891 he bought land near Compton, in Surrey and built a new house, the couple named the house "Limnerslease". Nearby they also built the Watts Gallery, a museum dedicated to only to his work, the first, and now the only purpose-built gallery in Britain devoted to a single artist.
Queen Victoria twice offered him to become a Baron, and twice he refused. He did accept the Order of Merit in 1902, on behalf of all English artists. The paintings of Picasso's Blue Period seem to have been anticipated by Watt's later paintings. He was also admired as a portrait painter of the most important and famous people of the day.
Art Movement: Symbolism.
Artists Influencing George Frederic Watts: William Behnes, Alexander Constantine Ionides, Dante Rossetti.
He Traveled To Italy, Greece.
Artist Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist.