G. F. Watts: The Last Great Victorian

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George Frederic Watts (1817–1904) was a titanic figure in nineteenth-century British art. The father of British Symbolism and portrait painter of his age, he forged a controversial career that spanned the reign of Queen Victoria. This book, the first in-depth biography of Watts, sheds new light on the pioneering spirit and breadth of mind of the artist.
Drawing on Watts’s abundant personal correspondence and diaries and an array of other contemporary documents, the book chronicles the artist’s career and personal life, including his friendships with Edward Burne-Jones, Frederic Leighton, William Gladstone, and Alfred Tennyson and his relationships with a series of singular women. The book also examines Watts’s wide reforming zeal and political agenda as well as his role and dealings in the Victorian art world.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this first comprehensive study of Victorian artist George Frederic Watts (1817- 1904), historian Gould reveals new details about his career as a respected portraitist. An advocate for social and educational reform, Watts painted many of the leading artists, writers, reformers, and statesmen of his time, including Alfred Lord Tennyson, Thomas Carlyle, William Gladstone, John Stuart Mill, Edward Burne-Jones, and William Morris. Since he was also an advocate of a national collection of paintings of important British personages, Watts's portraits later formed the collection of the National Portrait Gallery. Although sought after for his talent, Watts could not be categorized as part of an artistic movement like the Pre-Raphaelites. Instead, his mythological and allegorical works foreshadowed the style of British symbolism. Adding to the book's depth, much of Watt's personal correspondence and diaries are examined to chronicle his relationships with many leading Victorian artistic and intellectual figures. A very scholarly and thoroughly researched work, this book is recommended for all academic libraries supporting art history programs. [The year 2004 marked the centenary of Watts's death.-Ed.]-Sandra Rothenberg, Framingham State Coll. Lib., MA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300105773
  • Publisher: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
  • Publication date: 8/30/2004
  • Pages: 508
  • Product dimensions: 8.74 (w) x 10.38 (h) x 1.46 (d)

Meet the Author

Veronica Franklin Gould is curator of the exhibition The Vision of G.F. Watts, to be held at The Watts Gallery, Surrey. She is editing Watts’s letters and writing a biography of his wife, Mary Seton Watts.

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Table of Contents

1 Ambitious young philhellene 3
2 Florence 11
3 A cage eagle 21
4 Crusade against bare walls 27
5 Breezy Bohemia 42
6 Choosing 57
7 Unbridled passion 71
8 Royal academician 84
9 'Calling off these studios' 98
10 Sweet briary 114
11 New Little Holland House 128
12 Polemicist 144
13 Genius exposed 158
14 Revelations 166
15 New York sensation 180
16 Hope 193
17 Apex of art 207
18 'The utmost for the highest' 222
19 Limnerslease 237
20 Sic transit 255
21 Dual forces 273
22 Handover to the nation 295
23 The colossus sits 315
24 'Our race as pioneers' 327
25 'How fast the days go!' 340
App. I A projected scheme for frescoes representing the progress of the cosmos 361
App. II A poem by Watts preserved by Ellen Terry 363
App. III An outline by Watts for Cain as an epic, cantata or oratorio 364
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