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The mild climate of the Isle of Wight attracted the delicate Watts, who moved there to a new house in Freshwater in 1873. His neighbours the Tennants had two daughters, and he became friendly with Dorothy (c1851-1926), who was an artist and pupil at the Slade School. Watts had portrayed many of his famous contemporaries, usually with a sober realism. In this more casual portrait he follows a renaissance design, with a pet squirrel looking like an emblem.
Dorothy Tennant subsequently married the explorer Stanley in 1890. Both were Welsh. Her second husband presented the portrait to the Tate Gallery.