Discover The Collection

Highlights from Permanent Collection

Ever since its foundation in 1904, Watts Gallery has continued to be the chief repository of G. F. Watts’s work. When Watts Gallery first opened, the collection included 109 core works, primarily finished oil paintings and a few sketches, all by G.F. Watts, donated by the artist from his London studio in Kensington.

Found Drowned

Found Drowned

Painting

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Found Drowned

Artist

G F Watts

Date

c1848 - 1850

Materials/Technique

Oil on canvas

Watts painted this dramatic composition of an unknown drowned woman, her feet still in the water, lying on the bank of the River Thames. Its title is a legal term used in a coroner's inquest. She clasps a chain and heart-shaped locket suggesting a tragic suicide and its cause, while her plain clothes convey poverty. Set under Waterloo Bridge, well known for illegal suicides at this time, emotion is emphasised by the woman's outstretched pose and her illuminated face. In the distance, is the vague outline of the heavy industrialised south bank, opposite Hungerford Bridge, expressing Watts's revulsion at the resulting social dislocation and despair. A radical painting for its time, it belongs to a group of four Social Realist paintings.

Bust of Clytie

Bust of Clytie

Sculpture

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Bust of Clytie

Artist

G F Watts

Date

1881

Materials/Technique

Bronze

Clytie, Watts's first large, ideal sculpture in the round, was the only sculptural subject exhibited during his lifetime. He started work on the clay model in 1867 and the original marble carving was shown, unfinished, at the Royal Academy in 1868, where it was enthusiastically reviewed by W M Rossetti and A C Swinburne. In 1894 Edmund Gosse hailed it retrospectively as the precursor of the New Sculpture movement. The significance and popularity of Clytie are apparent in the considerable number of replicas made of the work in a range of media. A number of plaster casts, produced as early as 1869, the year following the RA exhibition, clearly indicate the impact that Clytie had made.

The first mention of these is in connection with the cast sent by Watts to George Eliot early in 1870. The bust was carried into Eliot's drawing room by Burne-Jones and Rossetti on 9 January 1870, and two days later she wrote to Watts thanking him for 'the finest present I ever had in all my life'. The painter John Lavery owned a plaster cast, as did the sculptor Albert Toft.

Time, Death and Judgement

Time, Death and Judgement

Painting

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Time, Death and Judgement

Artist

G F Watts

Date

1870 - 1880

Materials/Technique

Oil on canvas

Time, Death and Judgement is one of Watts's most dramatic and influential works. As was the case with many of his most important compositions, the artist evolved the design over many years.

When he began the idea in the 1860s there were just two figures – Time with his blind eyes and scythe on the left, and Death gathering flowers on the right. Both figures are youthful and beautiful, in strong contrast to their traditional personifications. Watts later added the flying figure of Judgement in flaring crimson robes. Against the head of Time is an orange setting sun (Time is running out both literally and metaphorically), while uncannily placed across and it almost seems through his head are Judgement's scales of justice. On a very grand scale, the image Watts evokes is magnificent and almost operatic rather than macabre or coldly allegorical.

Time, Death and Judgement became one of Watts's best-known works. It was seen as having the power to allow anyone to make better sense of their life. A version in mosaic was placed on the front of the church of St Jude's in Commercial Street in the East End of London, and in the 1890s the Watts Gallery version of the painting was given by the artist to St Paul's Cathedral where it was prominently displayed for eighty years. In E M Forster's 1910 novel, Howards End, the self-educated clerk Leonard Bast is described as visiting the Cathedral to see again “a picture that had educated him in former years".

Despite its emblematic, abstract theme, Time, Death and Judgement is a wonderful example of Watts succeeding in taking his art into the mainstream of everyday modern life.

Self Portrait in a red robe

Self Portrait in a red robe

Painting

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Self Portrait in a red robe

Artist

G F Watts

Date

c. 1853

Materials/Technique

Oil on canvas

The artist would have been about 36 when he created this imposing image of himself. Watts painted and drew himself regularly throughout his long life, but this portrait is unusually large and ambitious. Wearing a long red robe, Watts looks more like a figure from the Renaissance than a Victorian, and photographs of the artist from this period confirm that he really did adopt such unconventional clothing. Watts was later to become a vocal supporter of dress reform for both men and women.

The robe has been compared to those worn by distinguished Venetians during the Renaissance, such as senators and lawyers. Very probably the portrait was related to the enormous fresco at Lincoln's Inn (a college of lawyers) which Watts had begun in the early 1850s. This represented an imagined gathering of the great legal reformers of world history, with several of the artist's famous friends including Alfred Tennyson and William Holman Hunt sitting as models for these figures. It seems likely these historicised portraits encouraged Watts to paint himself in a similar fashion.

By 1853 Watts had a strong following among influential patrons and intellectuals, but was still a long way from achieving the public prominence for his art which he desired. His guise as a lawyer hints at the higher social status he would have liked to see enjoyed by artists, while the pose – defiant and defensive at the same time – suggests a man confident of his talent and ambition, but perhaps not yet sure he will succeed.

The portrait hung for many years outside the rooms in Watts's London homes in which he showed his work to visitors. It was acquired by Watts Gallery Trust in 2014 to show at the entrance to the artist's studio at Limnerslease.

Physical Energy

Physical Energy

Sculpture

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Physical Energy

Artist

G F Watts

Date

1884 - 1904

Materials/Technique

Gesso grosso model

Once safely established as a subject painter and portraitist Watts turned seriously to sculpture in his fifties. He wanted to create large public works to be displayed in easy to visit places. This full-scale equestrian model symbolises energy, continual motion, and ambition, suspended in time. Watts never trained in sculpture, but took inspiration from the British Museum's Parthenon Marbles by Pheidias. Watts used gesso grosso, a mixture of plaster, glue size and chopped hemp, which could be modelled when it was soft, and carved when hard. Three full-size bronze casts of Physical Energy exist in London, Cape Town and Harare.

Wounded Heron

Wounded Heron

Painting

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Wounded Heron

Artist

G F Watts

Date

1837

Materials/Technique

Oil on canvas

In 1837 the 20 year old G F Watts was making a living as a painter of small portraits in oil and pastel, but he aspired to paint grander works on historical themes. One day, while passing the window of a poulterer's shop, he saw a beautiful heron displayed in the window. He bought it and brought it back to his studio to paint. Working as rapidly as he could, the artist attempted to capture the heron's anatomy with great detail before the bird spoiled. Its form, splayed across the canvas, has the precise quality of a still life painting. In the distant background, Watts includes a falconer in historical dress on horseback, giving the work a subtle historical theme. The resulting canvas represented Watts's debut at the Royal Academy where, for the first time, his work was accepted for inclusion in the institution's prestigious annual exhibition.

The protection of birds was a constant theme in Watts's work. As a young boy, Watts had accidentally killed a pet bird, and the troubling memory of that incident remained with him for the rest of his life. Works like "A Dedication: To all those who love the beautiful and mourn over the senseless and cruel destruction of bird life and beauty" (1898-99) addressed the theme directly, depicting an angel weeping over slaughtered birds. But Watts also advocated protection for birds in more subtle ways. When painting the socialite Lillie Langtry (1880), he requested she remove the a large plume from her hat. Knowing she was an influential fashion icon, Watts did not want his painting to inadvertently advocate the use bird feathers in ladies' fashion. For Watts, cruelty to innocent birdlife represented a great evil.

Monument to Lord Tennyson

Monument to Lord Tennyson

Sculpture

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Monument to Lord Tennyson

Artist

G F Watts

Date

1898 - 1903

Materials/Technique

Gesso grosso model

This memorial statue of the great poet Alfred Lord Tennyson was begun by Watts when he was in his eighties, having already painted his lifelong friend six times. Born in Lincolnshire, Tennyson began writing poetry at the age of eight, later becoming Poet Laureate in 1850. When Tennyson died, Watts created this statue, the first of his colossal public works. The bronze now stands outside Lincoln Cathedral. Without payment, he began with this model of gesso grosso, a mixture of plaster, glue size and chopped hemp, which could be modelled when it was soft and carved when hard. He worked in his special sculpture barn, close to Limnerslease but died before the bronze was completed in1905.

Head of Medusa

Head of Medusa

Sculpture

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Head of Medusa

Artist

G F Watts

Date

1846

Materials/Technique

Clay and wax

The Head of Medusa is Watts's earliest autonomous sculptural design. Dating from 1846 it was made during his time in Italy when he stayed at the Villa Careggi, Florence where he was modelling in clay and wax. Mary Watts recorded that 'the one remaining example of his work in the round belonging to this date is the head of the dead Medusa, which was twice carried out in alabaster, the last chiselling being done by his own hand.' The subject clearly reflects Watts's response to Florence's celebrated Medusan imagery and artefacts.

Support us by adopting this sculpture

This sculpture is available for adoption for £1,500 for a period of five years.

To discuss the Adopt a Watts scheme further please contact us using the form below or contact Sarah James, Development Officer on 01483 901 809 or email developmentofficer@wattsgallery.org.uk

The Sisters (Sophie Dalrymple and Sara Princep)

The Sisters (Sophie Dalrymple and Sara Princep)

Painting

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The Sisters (Sophie Dalrymple and Sara Princep)

Artist

GF Watts

Date

1856

Materials/Technique

Oil on canvas

Painted in 1856, this double portrait of the exotic sisters, Sophie Dalrymple and Sara Princep, was hung in G F Watts's Little Holland House by June 1856. The distinctive quatrefoil balustrade of the balcony of Holland House forms the backdrop to the double portrait. The heavy robes draping the two sisters create a strongly sculptural effect reminiscent of Roman sculpture. Sophia, in a green dress, is partially swathed in a lengthy, golden paisley shawl whose bulky folds are held in front of her figure.

Support us by adopting this painting

This painting is available for adoption for £2,000 for a period of five years.

To discuss the Adopt a Watts scheme further please contact us using the form below or contact Sarah James, Development Officer on 01483 901 809 or email developmentofficer@wattsgallery.org.uk

Diana's Nymphs

Diana's Nymphs

Painting

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Diana's Nymphs

Artist

G F Watts

Date

c.1843

Materials/Technique

Oil on canvas

This is probably one of Watts's earliest known nudes, completed before the young artist went to Italy in 1843. Watts depicts Diana, the Greek goddess of hunting, and her nymphs resting in the shade, possibly preparing to bathe. The statue in the background probably represents the young hunter Prince Actaeon, who accidentally discovered Diana and her companions and saw the virginal goddess naked. To punish him, Diana turned Actaeon into a stag and made his own hounds tear him to pieces. The painting has an erotic quality created by the women's sensual poses and varied skin tones. It was originally displayed on the walls of a Gentlemen's Club, the Cosmopolitan.

Support us by adopting this painting

This painting is available for adoption for £2,000 for a period of five years.

To discuss the Adopt a Watts scheme further please contact us using the form below or contact Sarah James, Development Officer on 01483 901 809 or email developmentofficer@wattsgallery.org.uk

Lady Hallé (Woman Playing Violin)

Lady Hallé (Woman Playing Violin)

Painting

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Lady Hallé (Woman Playing Violin)

Artist

G F Watts

Date

1861-1885

Materials/Technique

Oil on canvas

Lady Hallé (Born Wilhelmine Neruda) came from a family famous for their musical talent. At the time, the violin was not considered a proper instrument for a woman and so Wilma's father, Josef (1807–1875) the organist of the Cathedral of Brno, introduced her to playing the piano. However Wilhelmine was caught secretly playing her brothers violin, which she preferred, and was subsequently allowed to play the violin instead.

Studying under Professor Leopold Jansa (1795–1875) Wilma made her first public appearance as a violinist in Vienna at the age of seven, playing one of Bach's Violin Sonatas.

G F Watts's Portrait of Joseph Joachim hangs at Watts Studios. Joachim himself was a great admirer of Lady Hallé's violin playing. In 1870 he wrote to his wife "I like her very much...Her playing is more to my taste than that of any other contemporary - unspoilt, pure and musical". They even performed Bach's Double Violin Concerto together at St James' Hall in April 1892. Lady Hallé's crowning glory was her appointment to Violinist to the Queen in late 1901.

Support us by adopting this painting

This painting is available for adoption for £1,500 for a period of five years.

To discuss the Adopt a Watts scheme further please contact us using the form below or contact Sarah James, Development Officer on 01483 901 809 or email developmentofficer@wattsgallery.org.uk

Self-Portrait in the Style of Van Dyck

Self-Portrait in the Style of Van Dyck

Sketch

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Self-Portrait in the Style of Van Dyck

Artist

G F Watts

Date

1831

Materials/Technique

Work on paper

This intricate self-portrait demonstrates Watts's adept handling of charcoal pencil by the time he was just fourteen years old. It is in the style of Sir Anthony Van Dyck who was well known for the elaborate lace collars worn by his sitters in the 1630s, and such lacework, which culminated in decorative angles, soon became known as “Van Dyke points.” Watts beautifully emulates such lacework here, probably looking to Van Dyck's “Tripple Portrait” of Charles I (1635, Royal Collection) for inspiration for the collar and fashionable slashed sleeves.

Support us by adopting this sketch

This sketch is available for adoption for £250 for a period of five years.

To discuss the Adopt a Watts scheme further please contact us using the form below or contact Sarah James, Development Officer on 01483 901 809 or email developmentofficer@wattsgallery.org.uk

Sketches for a composition of 'Romeo and Juliet'

Sketches for a composition of 'Romeo and Juliet'

Sculpture

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Sketches for a composition of 'Romeo and Juliet'

Artist

G F Watts

Date

c. 1845 - 1846

Materials/Technique

Ink on paper

These two sketches for a composition of Romeo and Juliet show them embracing over a balcony. The intimate sketches probably date from Watts's stay in Italy in 1843-7. He was considering a number of ambitious figure subjects at this period, all more or less in the grand manner, and evidently Romeo and Juliet were among them. He also attempted the comparable theme of Paolo and Francesca, carrying it out in fresco, and this may also have been his intention with the Romeo and Juliet design.

Support us by adopting this sculpture

This sculpture is available for adoption for £600 for a period of five years.

To discuss the Adopt a Watts scheme further please contact us using the form below or contact Sarah James, Development Officer on 01483 901 809 or email developmentofficer@wattsgallery.org.uk

Nemesis

Nemesis

Sculpture

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Nemesis

Artist

G F Watts

Date

Unknown

Materials/Technique

Gesso

Nemesis, a gesso model made by G F Watts is one of the most mysterious works in the collection. The title has been changed over the years and has also been known as The Captive Queen. It is believed to have been a sketch model for the figure in Hope, as creating a model instead of a pencil sketch to refer to was not uncommon practise for Watts.

Support us by adopting this sculpture

This sculpture is available for adoption for £2,500 for a period of five years.

To discuss the Adopt a Watts scheme further please contact us using the form below or contact Sarah James, Development Officer on 01483 901 809 or email developmentofficer@wattsgallery.org.uk

Patient Life of Unrequited Toil

Patient Life of Unrequited Toil

Painting

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Patient Life of Unrequited Toil

Artist

G F Watts

Date

1890-1891

Materials/Technique

Oil on canvas

G F Watts painted this large painting of a grey horse standing at the foot of a tree in a meadow bounded by woodland in 1889-90. George and Mary were staying with their friends Andrew and May Hichens at Monkshatch, the Hichens' large property outside Compton.

On 26 November an old grey horse was brought to stand for the painting. Watts had set up his easel under a Surrey chalk cliff, an old quarry, which reflected the sun's rays “at compound interest". Watts studied the chalk formations and the foliage as he walked along the paths.

In this painting Watts shows his sympathy with the suffering of the “lower animals" by infusing the elderly grey horse with human pathos. The horse's head is bowed looking at the ground; his bones can be seen protruding through the skin of his tired frame. The horse's attitude expresses the infinite patience that comes at the end of life to both man and beast as they await the inevitable without regret.

This horse was more fortunate than that of his working brethren, as he is allowed to end his days free from labour and left to feed in the meadow unmolested.

Watts was concerned that this painting looked like a “bottle of green pickles". However, his friend Lord Leighton diplomatically advised that it was not his usual subject and showed he was not stuck in a rut.

This painting is part of the original collection bequeathed to Watts Gallery by Mary Watts in 1905.

Support us by adopting this painting

This painting is available for adoption for £1,500 for a period of five years.

To discuss the Adopt a Watts scheme further please contact us using the form below or contact Sarah James, Development Officer on 01483 901 809 or email developmentofficer@wattsgallery.org.uk

Georgina Treherne

Georgina Treherne

Painting

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Georgina Treherne

Artist

G F Watts

Date

1856-1858

Materials/Technique

Oil on canvas

The life of Georgina Treherne (1837–1914) is a roller-coaster story, but when Watts knew her at Little Holland House she was only about twenty years old at the beginning of her eventful life. She married in 1860 becoming Georgina Weldon. Her excellent soprano voice gained her entry into society and to musical soirées such as those staged by Sara Prinsep at Little Holland House. Not a conventional beauty, but with her own charm Georgina fascinated many men. Even Watts fell under the spell of the vivacious young woman he called his 'Bambina mia'. Watts depicted her several times; this study showing her in two views. In the first, she wears a low-cut evening dress, looking as she did when performing as a singer at Little Holland House. The other view shows her at rest, seemingly asleep, her necklace twirled around her little finger. This study with its loose handling and strong colour conveys the exuberant personality of its sitter.

Support us by adopting this painting

This painting is available for adoption for £1,500 for a period of five years.

To discuss the Adopt a Watts scheme further please contact us using the form below or contact Sarah James, Development Officer on 01483 901 809 or email developmentofficer@wattsgallery.org.uk