'I paint ideas, not things'
Watts returned to London from Italy in 1847 to find the city much changed. He lodged at the less than salubrious 48 Cambridge Street, off the Edgware Road, for two years and encountered a challenging artistic climate. The great hero of history painting, B.R. Haydon, had committed suicide in 1846, and the press was becoming increasing hostile towards the high art in which Watts was involved.
A move to the more fashionable 30 Charles Street, Berkeley Square, gave rise to new associations and a change in fortunes for the artist, who was facing a difficult time. Watts was also disturbed by the increasing poverty in London and Ireland, which he expressed in four paintings from this period, Found Drowned, The Seamstress or The Song of the Shirt, The Irish Famine and Under a Dry Arch. These paintings were unique to this period, and The Good Samaritan marks a turning point, as Watts expresses social concerns in a symbolic manner rather than through realism.