From the Archive: Royal Correspondence

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Posted 4th May 2020

From the Archive:
Royal Correspondence

Dr. Eva-Charlotta Mebius
Collection Online Early Career Research Fellow (Historical & Biblical)

In 2012, Watts Gallery - Artists' Village received a wonderful gift, all the way from Sweden. Prince Eugen's Waldemarsudde, a museum in Stockholm, kindly gave the gallery copies of some letters, sent by Prince Eugen to his mother Queen Sophia, during his visit to England in 1896.

Prince Eugen visited London on a 'campaign', as he called it, to convince British artists to contribute works to the upcoming Stockholm Exhibition of 1897. The letters are charming and give a spirited account of the Prince's deep admiration for the country, its people, and above all its art. Queen Sophia was a great anglophile herself and Prince Eugen took great pleasure in describing his tour to his mother, which coincided with the opening of the Royal Academy's annual exhibition.

The purpose of the visit was for Prince Eugen, a celebrated landscape painter and art collector himself, to meet British artists. The letters given to Watts Gallery describe a meeting that was particularly important to the Prince. At the end of April and beginning of May 1896, Prince Eugen made several visits to G F and Mary Watts. First visiting the couple in London, a few days later the Prince was also a guest at their Surrey home Limnerslease.

As Prince Eugen's correspondence is in Swedish, since 2012 the letters have been lying undisturbed and untranslated in Watts Gallery's Archive. Last week, almost 124 years since the Prince visited Compton, I managed to uncover the files (with the help of Emma Coburn, Watts Gallery's brilliant Collections Manager).

As it so happens, I am originally from Sweden and have lived in the UK since 2013, when I started my postgraduate studies at University College London. I am now busy translating and transcribing the letters and shall be sharing highlights from them with you on this blog in the coming weeks.

Mary and G F Watts made a deep and lasting impression on Prince Eugen and I look forward to exploring the connections between the three artists. In his first letter on 'Old Man'-Watts, as he affectionately called him, the Prince described G F Watts as the most interesting person he had met on his 'campaign' and wrote that he felt as if he had become a better person for his visit.

Long after his death in 1947, Prince Eugen's home and art collection – like that of Mary and G F Watts – continues to be accessible to the public. Today, both Prince Eugen's Waldemarsudde and Watts Gallery—Artists' Village are members of the Artist's Studio Museum Network.

In the coming weeks, I very much look forward to taking a virtual tour of Compton, London and beyond, with you and Prince Eugen. I hope it might be a welcome distraction at this time and serve as a reminder of the many wonderful places that await our return.

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