- Extended Catalogue Entry
by George Frederic Watts
oil on canvas, 1870
25 1/2 in. x 20 1/2 in. (648 mm x 521 mm)
Given by George Frederic Watts, 1897
Artistback to top
- George Frederic Watts (1817-1904), Painter and sculptor. Artist associated with 91 portraits, Sitter in 43 portraits.
This portraitback to top
On 15 April 1870 William Morris wrote to his wife Janey (who at the time was having an affair with Dante Gabriel Rossetti), 'I am going to sit to Watts this afternoon, though I have got a devil of a cold-in-the-head, which don't make it very suitable.' Perhaps a combination of the cold and his depression at the failure of his marriage accounts for the slightly rheumy look of his portrait. According to Mrs Watts, it was painted at a single sitting, although it is possible that Watts may have done more work on it when it was exhibited in 1880. Otherwise, there is singlularly little contemporary comment on it, apart from a later and well judged remark by G.K. Chesterton that 'There is something appropriate in the way in which the living, leonine head projects from a background of green and silver decoration. This immersion of a singularly full-blooded and aggressive man in the minutiae of aesthetics was a paradox that attracted men to Morris.'
Linked publicationsback to top
- National Portrait Gallery: 100 Portraits, p. 79
- Audio Guide
- Victorian Portraits Resource Pack, p. 29
- Funnell, Peter, Victorian Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection, 1996, p. 29
- Funnell, Peter (introduction); Marsh, Jan, A Guide to Victorian and Edwardian Portraits, 2011, p. 15
- Gibson, Robin, Treasures from the National Portrait Gallery, 1996, p. 97
- MacCarthy, Fiona, Anarchy & Beauty: William Morris and His Legacy 1860-1960, 2014 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 16 October 2014 - 11 January 2015), p. 9
- Marsh, Jan, Character Sketches: The Pre-Raphaelites, 1998
- Marsh, Jan, The Pre-Raphaelite Circle, 2013, p. 89
- Marsh, Jan, Insights: The Pre-Raphaelite Circle, 2005, p. 84
- Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery: An Illustrated Guide, 2000, p. 140
- Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery, 1997, p. 140
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 443
- Various, William Morris: Words & Wisdom, 2014 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 16 October 2014 - 11 January 2015)
- Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 155
Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top
- Anarchy and Beauty: William Morris (16 October 2014 - 11 January 2015)
Events of 1870back to top
Current affairsWilliam Edward Forster's Education Act is passed, making provisions for education for all under-13s. It demonstrated the balance in Gladstone's first ministry between progressive reform and conservativism by spreading literacy, whilst maintaining the status of Church schools.
The Married Women's Property Act gives wives rights over their own earnings.
Art and scienceThe Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's fantasy-overture Romeo and Juliet, based on Shakespeare's play and written with the aid of composer Mily Balakirev, debuts in Moscow, conducted by Nikolai Rubenstein.
W. G. Grace becomes cricket captain of Gloucestershire, marking the start of a successful decade for the club in which they won three 'Champion County' titles.
InternationalIsaac Butt, an Irish MP at Westminster, forms the Home Rule Association.
The Franco-Prussian war breaks out between France and a coalition of German states led by Prussia. Provoked by the candidacy of German Prince Leopold Hohenzollen-Sigmaringen for the Spanish throne, France declared war in July after Bismark published the deliberately provocative Ems telegraph, in which the French were represented in an offensive light on the issue.
See this portrait
On display in Room 26 at the National Portrait Gallery
- William Morris by Frederick Hollyer
- The Watts Collection
- 2017 Anniversaries
- Room 26: Portraits by G.F. Watts
- Only Connect - installation video
- Only Connect
- Room 25: Women, politics and domestic life in Victorian Britain
- Rebel women
- Room 26: G.F. Watts Bicentenary
- Princes of Victorian Bohemia: Photographs by David Wilkie Wynfield
- Julia Margaret Cameron: 'Poets, prophets, painters and lovely maidens'
- The Victorians