Sir Alfred Gilbert

George Frederic Watts, O.M., R.A.

1888–9

Artist
Sir Alfred Gilbert 1854–1934
Medium
Bronze
Dimensions
Object: 584 x 584 x 368 mm, 26kg
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Mrs Watts by the wish of the late George Frederic Watts 1904
Reference
N01949

On loan to: Watts Gallery (Compton, UK)

Exhibition: G.F.Watts: England's Michelangelo

Display caption

This bust of the famous Victorian painter and sculptor, was commissioned by his wife, and took more than Gilbert's usual number of sittings. Mrs Watts wrote that 'Sir Frederic Leighton gave it high praise ... I remember his passing his hands over the planes of the cheek-bone and then to the planes of the coat, saying 'It could not be better', and Signor [Watts] agreed with him, remarking how far finer a coat became in sculpture when treated in such a manner than any artificial drapery; and they congratulated each other on the disappearance of the bathing-towel from the shoulders of a modern bust.'
Gilbert refused any payment for the bust, and in return Watts painted his portrait.

Gallery label, February 2010

Catalogue entry

N01949 GEORGE FREDERIC WATTS, O.M., R.A. 1888–9
 

Not inscribed.

Bronze, 23×23×14 1/2 (38.5×58.5×37), on dark green marble base, 8 1/4×9 3/4×9 3/4 (21×25×25).
Presented by Mrs G.F. Watts 1904.
Exh: The plaster: R.A., 1889 (2153).
Lit: M.H. Spielmann, British Sculpture and Sculptors of To-day, 1901, p.79; Hatton, 1903, p.31, repr.; M.S. Watts, George Frederic Watts, 11, 1912, pp.133–5; E. Rimbault Dibdin, George Frederick Watts, 1923, p.70; Bury, 1952, pp.80–1, repr. pl.5.
Repr: McAllister, 1929, pl.14.

Begun in August 1888 in Watts's studio at Little Holland House. Eighteen sittings were required and it was completed and cast in bronze in the following winter after Watts had left for Brighton. It was done by Gilbert at the request of Mrs Watts, but he refused payment for it. The plaster model is at the R.A.

In 1895 Watts painted a portrait of Gilbert, also as a gift. This portrait was exhibited at the R.A., 1896 (90), and is recorded as ‘in the collection of Mrs A. Gilbert’ in Mrs Watts's photocatalogue at the Watts Gallery, Compton, but its present location has not been traced (repr. McAllister, 1929, pl.15, where it is dated 1889).

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I

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