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Watts Gallery's new acquisition - Self-Portrait in a red robe

Posted 30th July 2014
Watts Contemporary Gallery

Watts Gallery is pleased to announce the acquisition of a new painting for the collection. Self Portrait in a Red Robe (c. 1853) was acquired in July. Watts Gallery is grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Art Fund and The V&A Purchase Grant Fund, as well as all individual donors for their support in securing this dramatic portrait. For the first time in 30 years, the painting is now on public display hanging in the Isabel Goldsmith Patiño Gallery.

The painting is particularly important as it portrays Watts at a time which is not represented in the current Watts Gallery collection. Wearing a red robe, the artist looks as much like a Venetian senator, a cleric, or a lawyer, as a painter. Watts evidently drew on the influence of the four years he spent in Italy studying Renaissance art, as well as the great work he was painting in the 1850s, a fresco depicting history’s great lawmakers for the Hall at Lincoln’s Inn, London. Watts’s own friends, including Alfred Tennyson and William Holman Hunt, posed in colourful court dress for the mural. With his colleagues donning Italian-style gowns, Watts must have had the idea of adopting such clothing for his self-portrait.

Self-portraits offer unique opportunities to assess the ways in which artists wished to present themselves to the world, a quality dramatically visible in this powerful image of Watts at the age of about 36. The painting hung just outside Watts’s studio at Little Holland House and would have given visitors a strong impression of the artist and his work before they even entered the room. The new painting will eventually hang in the entrance to Watts’s Studio at Limnerslease, welcoming 21st- century visitors as it once did in the 19th Century. The new museum at Limnerslease is due to open in 2015.

Curator, Nicholas Tromans, says: “Watts's Self-Portrait will return to the role it played for many years during the artist's lifetime - welcoming visitors to the artist's home and studio. Its addition to our collection as we prepare to open the Watts Studios at Limnerslease to the public could not have been better timed. ”

Watts Gallery is still fundraising to close the shortfall on this striking artwork. Please help Watts Gallery’s Acquisition Fund.

Click here to donate to the fund or send a cheque payable to ‘Watts Gallery’ to Development, Down Lane, Compton, Guildford, Surrey GU3 1DQ.

Visit Watts Gallery now to see the painting hanging in situ before it leaves to undergo research and conservation so that it is ready for display in its permanent location.