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Ellen Terry ('Choosing')

1 of 193 portraits of Ellen Terry

Ellen Terry ('Choosing'), by George Frederic Watts, 1864 - NPG 5048 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Ellen Terry ('Choosing')

by George Frederic Watts
oil on strawboard mounted on Gatorfoam, 1864
18 1/2 in. x 13 7/8 in. (472 mm x 352 mm)
Accepted in lieu of tax by H.M. Government and allocated to the Gallery, 1975
Primary Collection
NPG 5048


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  • George Frederic Watts (1817-1904), Painter and sculptor. Artist associated with 90 portraits, Sitter in 43 portraits.

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This delicate yet sensuous portrait shows the seventeen-year-old Ellen Terry choosing between the camellias, which despite their luscious appearance have little scent, and the violets in her hand which are far humbler in appearance but smell sweeter. The choice, which is symbolic of that between worldly vanities and higher virtues, had a personal significance for the artist and the sitter. 1864 was the year in which Terry gave up the stage to marry Watts, thirty years her senior, and to be educated by him. The marriage lasted barely a year, and despite Watts's disapproval, Terry eventually returned to the stage. The portrait is framed in an enriched version of what became known as a Watts frame.

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