Collection Information.

Black and white photo of Mary Watts in side profile

Photographic portrait of Mary Watts

For too long referred to as ‘the painter’s wife’ or ‘Mrs G F Watts’, often of her own accord, Mary Seton Watts (née Fraser Tytler, 1849-1938) was an accomplished artist in her own right.

As an artist, designer, writer, businesswoman and philanthropist, Mary found ways for her art and creativity to support and inspire the people around her. She was the creative powerhouse behind two significant enterprises: the Watts Chapel and the Potters’ Arts Guild at Compton.

Our collection of works by Mary includes diaries, self-portraits, pottery and illustrated books.

From 1872-1873 Mary was enrolled at the newly established Slade School of Fine Art. After leaving the Slade, she continued her studies in London under the celebrated Parisian sculptor Aimé-Jules Dalou (1838-1902).

Mary first met George Frederic Watts in the spring of 1870 when she visited his London studio-home, Little Holland House.

Over the years, Mary received both friendship and artistic guidance from the older and well-established artist. After a short engagement, the couple married on 20 November 1886.

Throughout her life, Mary liked to write. Her writings provide us with a unique insight into her changing and evolving artistic practice. They also offer her views on a broad range of contemporary topics including religion, politics, and socialism. Collectively, her written works give voice to a strong-minded, at times self-critical, yet witty individual. In her numerous notebooks, diaries and in the first published biography of George’s life and work, Mary documented key events in her life, commemorated the couple’s artistic achievements, and recorded the early history of Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village.