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Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue

Dame Ellen Alice Terry (1847-1928), Actress

Actress; born 27 February 1847, in Coventry, Warwickshire, one of several siblings who pursued successful stage careers, including Marion Bessie, Kate and Fred Terry. Trained by her actor parents; début as Mamillius in Charles John Kean’s production of The Winter’s Tale at the Princess’s Theatre, London 1856, going on to perform various roles in London and provincial centres; married artist George Frederic Watts 1864, although the couple separated within a year; retired from stage again 1868 to live with architect and designer Edward William Godwin, with whom she had two children, Edith Ailsa Geraldine Craig and (Edward Henry) Gordon Craig; married actor Charles Kelly [Wardell] 1877 (separated 1881); joined Henry Irving’s company at the Lyceum Theatre 1878, and distinguished herself as leading Shakespearean actress, touring Britain and America and excelling as Ophelia (Hamlet, 1878), Portia (The Merchant of Venice, 1879) and Lady Macbeth (Macbeth, 1888) among others; significant non-Shakespearean parts included the title roles in Olivia (1885) and Nance Oldfield (1891), and as Margaret in Faust (1885); bought country home at Smallhythe, Kent 1900; married American actor James Carew in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1907 (separated 1910); continued to act into twentieth century, also appearing in a number of films; gave lecture tours and readings from Shakespeare in Britain, America, Australia and New Zealand; LL D 1922; Dame (DBE) 1925; died at Smallhythe 21 July 1928 following stroke and long period of deteriorating health.

Walford Graham Robertson wrote of Terry’s appearance

Her portraits will remain showing an appealing, arresting personality, a haunting glance, a grace of softly falling raiment, but no portrait can reflect the shadow of her beauty. Pale eyes, rather small and narrow, a broad nose slightly tilted at the tip, and wide mouth, a firm, large chin, pale hair, not decidedly golden, yet not brown – by no means a dazzling inventory of charms, yet out of these evolved Ellen Terry, the most beautiful woman of her time … Her charm held everyone, but I think pre-eminently those who loved pictures. She was par excellence the Painter’s Actress and appealed to the eye before the ear; her gesture and pose were eloquence itself. [1]

Elizabeth Heath

Footnotesback to top

1) Robertson 1931, p.54.

Referencesback to top

Auerbach 1987
Auerbach, N., Ellen Terry: Player in Her Time, London, 1987.

Bailey 1996
Bailey, K., ‘Leighton – Public and Private Lives’, Apollo, February 1996, pp.22–6.

Bancroft 1939
Bancroft, G.P., Stage and Bar, London, 1939.

Barrington 1905
Barrington, E., G.F. Watts: Reminiscences, London, 1905.

Beardsley 1899b
Beardsley, A., The Early Work of Aubrey Beardsley, London and New York, 1899 (and later editions).

Bills & Bryant 2008
Bills, M., and B. Bryant, G.F. Watts: Victorian Visionary: Highlights from the Watts Gallery Collection, exh. cat., Guildhall Art Gallery, London and Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate: New Haven and London, 2008.

Bills & Knight 2006
Bills, M., and V. Knight, eds, William Powell Frith: Painting the Victorian Age, London, 2006.

Booth 2004
Booth, M.R., ‘Terry, Dame Ellen Alice (1847–1928)’, ODNB, Oxford, 2004; online ed., Jan. 2011.

Bryant 2004a
Bryant, B., G.F. Watts Portraits: Fame and Beauty in Victorian Society, exh. cat., NPG, London, 2004.

Bryant 2009
Bryant, B., G.F. Watts in Kensington, [Compton], Surrey, 2009.

Calloway & Orr 2011
Calloway, S., and L.F. Orr, eds, The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860–1900, exh. cat., Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2011.

Cheshire 1989
Cheshire, D., Portrait of Ellen Terry, Oxford, 1989.

Christian 1992
Christian, J., Shakespeare in Western Art, exh. cat., four Japanese venues, Tokyo, 1992.

Craig 1899
Craig, E.G., Henry Irving. Ellen Terry, etc.: A Book of Portraits, Chicago, 1899.

Craig 1931
Craig, E.G., Ellen Terry and Her Secret Self, London, 1931.

Craig & St John 1932
Craig, E., and C. St John, eds, Ellen Terry’s Memoirs, New York, 1932.

Eimer 1987
Eimer, C., British Commemorative Medals and their Values, London, 1987.

Forbes-Robertson 1925
Forbes-Robertson, J., A Player under Three Reigns, London, 1925.

Funnell & Marsh 2011
Funnell, P., and J. Marsh, A Guide to Victorian and Edwardian Portraits, London, 2011.

Gaunt 1972
Gaunt, W., The Restless Century: Painting in Britain 1800–1900, London, 1972.

Gibson 1995
Gibson, R., Treasures from the National Portrait Gallery, exh. cat., 5 venues in Japan, 1995.

Gould 2004
Gould, V.F., G.F. Watts: The Last Great Victorian, London, 2004.

Gould & Gawade 2014
Gould, V.F., and K. Gawade, Ellen Terry: The Painter's Actress, Compton, Surrey, 2014 (to accompany exh., Watts Gallery, Compton, 2014).

Hiatt 1898
Hiatt, C., Ellen Terry and Her Impersonations, London, 1898.

Holroyd 2008
Holroyd, M., A Strange Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving and Their Remarkable Families, London, 2008.

Howard 1990
Howard, J., The Whisper of the Muse: The World of Julia Margaret Cameron. A Loan Exhibition … in Collaboration with the Royal Photographic Society, exh. cat., P. & D. Colnaghi, London, 1990.

Hudson 1949a
Hudson, D., A Memorial Exhibition of Works by James Pryde, 1866–1941, exh. cat., Arts Council, London, 1949.

Hudson 1949b
Hudson, D., James Pryde 1866–1941, London, 1949.

Kellogg 1913
Kellogg, C.L., Memoirs of an American Prima Donna, New York and London, 1913.

Loshak 1963
Loshak, D., ‘G.F. Watts and Ellen Terry’, Burlington Magazine, vol.105, November 1963, pp.476–87.

Mancoff 2003
Mancoff, D.N., Flora Symbolica: Flowers in Pre-Raphaelite Art, London, 2003.

Manvell 1968
Manvell, R., Ellen Terry, London, 1968.

Melville 1987
Melville, J., Ellen & Edy, London, 1987.

Melville 1997
Melville, J., Ellen Terry and Smallhythe Place, National Trust, 1997.

Melville 2006
Melville, J., Ellen Terry, London, 2006.

Ormond 1969
Ormond, L., George Du Maurier, London, 1969.

Ormond & Kilmurray 1998
Ormond, R., and E. Kilmurray, John Singer Sargent: The Early Portraits, New Haven and London, 2002.

Pemberton 1902
Pemberton, T.E., Ellen Terry and Her Sisters, London, 1902.

Pressly 1992
Pressly, W.L, A Catalogue of Paintings in the Folger Shakespeare Library, New Haven and London, 1992.

Preston 1953
Preston, K., intro., Letters from Graham Robertson, London, 1953.

Reed 1898
Reed, E.T., Mr Punch's Animal Land, London, 1898.

Rideal 1991
Rideal, L., Double Take, exh. cat., NPG, London, 1991.

Robertson 1931
Robertson, W.G., Time Was: Reminiscences, London, 1931.

Robertson 1938
Robertson, W.G., ‘A Note on Watts’ Picture “Choosing”’, Apollo, July–December 1938, pp.318–19.

Rothenstein 1931–2
Rothenstein, W., Men and Memories: Recollections of William Rothenstein, 2 vols, London, 1931–2.

St John 1932
St John, C., ed., Four Lectures on Shakespeare, London, 1932.

St John n.d.
St John, C., Ellen Terry, London, n.d.

Saumarez Smith 2000
Saumarez Smith, C., The National Portrait Gallery: An Illustrated Guide, London, 2000.]

Shearer 1998
Shearer, M., Ellen Terry, Stroud, Glos., 1998.

Snow 1975
Snow, C.P., Trollope, London, 1975.

Spielmann 1895a
Spielmann, M.H., The History of Punch, London, 1895.

Steen 1962
Steen, M., A Pride of Terrys: Family Saga, London, 1962.

Stetz 2007
Stetz, M.D., Facing the Late Victorians: Portraits of Writers and Artists from the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection, Newark, DE, 2007.

Terry 1908
Terry, E., The Story of My Life, London, 1908.

Waggoner et al. 2010
Waggoner, D., and others, eds, The Pre-Raphaelite Lens: British Photography and Painting, 1848–1875, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 2010.

West 2009
West, S., 'The Photographic Portraiture of Henry Irving and Ellen Terry', in Ruskin, the Theatre and Victorian Visual Culture, ed. A. Heinrich, K. Newey and J. Richards, Basingstoke and New York, 2009, pp.187–215.

Whyte 1898
Whyte, F., Actors of the Century, London 1898.

Wilcox 1993
Wilcox, T., ‘The Aesthete Expunged: The Career and Collection of T. Eustace Smith, MP’, Journal of the History of Collections, vol.5, 1993, pp.43–57.

Wood 1976
Wood, C., Victorian Panorama: Paintings of Victorian Life, London, 1976.

Wood 2006
Wood, C., William Powell Frith: A Painter & His World, Stroud, Glos., 2006.