Men I Have Painted/George F. Watts
AS I opened the door of Signor's large studio in Melbury Road one morning I may have sneezed. A voice from the far end of the long room called out, "You have a cold! If you come in I shall catch it, and keep it all winter; do please go home; and come again when you are well." Calling back "Good-bye," I left the house, filled with admiration for a man who knew how to protect himself at the expense of ceremony, the gift that charms when the sun shines, but is always ridiculous when it rains.
Signor, as his pet name implies, was an Italian in everything but nativity. Throughout his career he was the artist in dress, in manner, and in temperament, among princely patrons. He lived and thought and worked upon a plane elevated above that of other men—even of Leighton and Burne-Jones, whose ideals surpassed those of their contemporaries.
When I first knew him he was white-haired, and always dressed in a long, gray coat that gave him the look of a painter of the Cinquecento. There are interesting photographs, but no characteristic painting, of one of the most picturesque figures of the nineteenth century. I was only able to obtain a pastel drawing that is now in the collection of Mr. Edward H. Coates.
As Signor was a spiritual son of Italy in the Middle Ages, and a material child of modern England, he often found himself perplexed by the problems that are vexing society in the present, and darkening the outlook into the future. His nobility of purpose and his goodness of heart obscured his vision. His best portrait is probably that of a Socialist, Walter Crane.