Watts, the Man - Timeline:
Watts was born on February 23, 1817 in Marylebone, London. He was named after the German composer George Frederic Handel, who shared the same birth date.
At the young age of 10, Watts studied sculpture with William Behnes.
Watts attended the Royal Academy of Arts in London between 1835 and 1837. Twice, he won competitions for decorating the House of Parliament. He used his prize money for travels to Florence, Rome and Naples in Italy.
During Watts' 1843 trip to Italy, he began painting landscapes.
Watts was elected as an Academician to the Royal Academy of Arts in 1864.
In 1864 Watts married the prolific and beautiful Shakespearean actress Ellen Terry who had done some modeling for him. (Ellen Terry is the great-aunt of actor John Gielgud). As a side note, Terry was only 17 at the time, 30 years younger than Watts. Their marriage only lasted 10 months - Watts filed for divorce after his wife ran off with another man.
Watts remarried in 1886 to Mary Fraser-Tytler, a Scottish portrait artist, designer and potter. She was also many years younger than Watts but this marriage lasted. The two artists supported each other.
In 1891 Watts and his wife purchased land in Surrey. They built their home, named it "Limnerslease" and built "The Watts Gallery," a museum dedicated to exhibiting Watt's paintings, which opened in 1904. Mary designed The Watts Mortuary Chapel. Her husband painted "The All-Pervading" for its alter.
In 1897 Watts donated 18 of his paintings to the Tate Gallery plus another 3 in 1900.
Queen Victoria of England twice offered Watts baronetcy but he refused both times. In 1902 Watts accepted the Order of Merit "on behalf of all English artists."
Watts, the Artist - His Paintings:
Watts is most famous for his allegorical (based on stories) paintings, especially "Hope" and "Love and Life." He was a member of the Symbolist Movement, feeling that his works should "preach a universal message" and yet his messages were very subtle - he liked to work with abstract ideals using obscure symbolism.
Watts also painted portraits of "important people." This collection is known as his "Hall of Fame." Many of these portraits can be seen at the National Portrait Gallery in London and at Bodelwydden Castle in North Wales. Watts himself donated at least 47 of these portraits.
George Frederick Watts died on July 1, 1904 in Compton, Surrey, England. He and his wife, Mary, are buried at the Watts Cemetary in Surrey.