Past Events

George Frederic Watts: Centenary Conference


  • 12 November 2004
  • 10:00 – 7:00 pm
  • National Portrait Gallery, London
Three quarter portrait of man with beard and hat

George Frederic Watts, Self-Portrait , 1864

Digital image courtesy of Tate, N01561

2004 marks the centenary of the death of Victorian painter and sculptor George Frederic Watts (1817-1904). Watts was a central figure 1n the Victorian era: a friend of Tennyson, the Pre-Raphaelites, photographic pioneer Julia Margaret Cameron and, briefly. the husband of the actress Ellen Terry. Precociously gifted and self-taught, he was the most revered figure in British art from 1880 onwards. He was also, however, a complex and elusive figure. Influenced by evolutionary theory, he reinterpreted the tradition of the classical figure, and his philanthropic and educational interests informed numerous projects for a more affective public art.

Jointly organised by Tate Britain and the National Portrait Gallery, and supported by the Paul Mellon Centre, this one-day Conference coincides with Tate Britain's new display The Symbolic Paintings of G F Watts, and with the Portrait Gallery's major exhibition G F Watts, Portraits: Fame & Beauty in Victorian Society. It is divided into two sections: the first, held at Tate Britain, focuses on new readings and interpretations of Watts' work; the second, at the National Portrait Gallery, explores Watts' career as a portraitist and public figure. It is followed by a drinks reception and private view of the Watts exhibition.