Joanna Mary Wells

Gretchen

1861

On display at Tate Britain

Artist
Joanna Mary Wells 1831–1861
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 730 x 437 mm
frame: 922 x 618 x 48 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the artist's daughters 1923
Reference
N03814

Display caption

Joanna Wells (née Boyce) established a reputation during the 1850s as a painter of portraits, genre and landscape. She also wrote art reviews for the Saturday Review. This painting may represent the innocent maiden from Goethe’s tragic play Faust but could also be a portrait of a nursery maid in the employ of the Wells family. The painting was started shortly before the artist’s death following the birth of her third child and is unfinished. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who described Wells as ‘a great artist sacrificed to bringing more kids into the world’, judged the painting to be her most beautiful work.

Gallery label, November 2016