Ellen Terry ('Choosing')
1 of 196 portraits of Dame Ellen Alice Terry
- Extended Catalogue Entry
Ellen Terry ('Choosing')
by George Frederic Watts
oil on strawboard mounted on Gatorfoam, 1864
18 5/8 in. x 13 7/8 in. (472 mm x 352 mm) overall
Accepted in lieu of tax by H.M. Government and allocated to the Gallery, 1975
Artistback to top
- George Frederic Watts (1817-1904), Painter and sculptor. Artist associated with 91 portraits, Sitter in 43 portraits.
This portraitback to top
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.
Linked publicationsback to top
- I-Spy National Portrait Gallery, 2010, p. 39
- National Portrait Gallery: 100 Portraits, p. 77
- Audio Guide
- Victorian Portraits Resource Pack, p. 28
- Bryant, Barbara, G.F. Watts: Portraits, Fame & Beauty in Victorian Society, 2004 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 14 October 2004 to 9 January 2005), p. 135
- Cooper, John, A Guide to the National Portrait Gallery, 2009, p. 42
- Cooper, John, Visitor's Guide, 2000, p. 79
- Funnell, Peter, Victorian Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection, 1996, p. 28
- Funnell, Peter (introduction); Marsh, Jan, A Guide to Victorian and Edwardian Portraits, 2011, p. 33
- Gibson, Robin, Treasures from the National Portrait Gallery, 1996, p. 91
- Hayward, Tony (foreword), BP Portrait Award 2007, 2007 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 14 June to 16 September 2007), p. 11
- John Cooper, National Portrait Gallery Visitor's Guide, 2006, p. 79
- Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery: An Illustrated Guide, 2000, p. 133
- Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery, 1997, p. 133
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 609
- Simon, Jacob, The Art of the Picture Frame: Artists, Patrons and the Framing of Portraits in Britain, 1997 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 8 November 1996 - 9 February 1997), p. 75, 173
- Truss, Lynn, Tennyson and his Circle, 2015, p. 77
- Truss, Lynne, Character Sketches: Tennyson and His Circle, 1999, p. 41
- Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 149
Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top
- G.F. Watts: Portraits - Fame & Beauty in Victorian Society (14 October 2004 - 9 January 2005)
Subjects & Themesback to top
Events of 1864back to top
Current affairsFirst of the Contagious Diseases Act. These acts allowed for the arrest, medical inspection and confinement of any woman suspected of being a prostitute in the port towns. Following huge public outcry over their discrimination against women, notably led by Josephine Butler, leader of the Ladies' National Association, the acts were eventually repealed.
Octavia Hill starts work on slums, and the International Working Men's Association is founded in London.
Art and scienceThe Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell presents his discoveries in the field of electromagnetics to the Royal Society. His paper A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field expresses the basic laws of electricity and magnetism in unified fashion. Maxwell's equations, as his rules came to be known, helped create modern physics, laying the foundation for future work in special relativity and quantum mechanics.
InternationalAustria and Prussia combine forces to seize Schleswig-Holstein from Denmark.
Britain cedes Corfu, acquired from France in the Second Treaty of Paris (1815) to Greece. Although Britain had vigorously suppressed an uprising in 1849 in Cephalonia aiming to restore Iolian islands, the government changed policy throughout the 1850s and 60s.
See this portrait
On display in Room 26 at the National Portrait Gallery
- Shakespeare: Stage and Screen
- 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'