Page:Dictionary of National Biography, Second Supplement, volume 3.djvu/626

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Watts
Watts
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years later a new Little Holland House in Melbury Road, not two hundred yards from the old. The Prinseps occupied The Briary in the spring of 1874, Watts remaining at the old Little Holland House till August 1875. In the meantime he had painted one of his best allegorical pictures, 'The Spirit of Christianity,' as well as an official portrait of the Prince of Wales. After spending most of the winter at Freshwater he achieved the trying labour of shifting the accumulations of his life's work from one house to the other, and got settled in Melbury road by February 1876. Here he received in the following years many friendly services from his neighbours Mr. and Mrs. Russell Barrington: services which the lady has fully recorded in the volume cited at foot of this article. In 1877 he suffered a great loss by the death of Mrs. Nassau Senior. In the same year his public reputation was much enhanced by the first exhibition at the newly opened Grosvenor Gallery, to which he sent a large version of 'Love and Death' and three of his finest portraits. In this and subsequent exhibitions at the same place, and afterwards at the New Gallery, his contributions were more effectively seen than on the walls of the Royal Academy, where work of more popular aim seemed to crowd them out of sight. Every year confirmed his conviction that art should have a mission beyond the pleasure of the eye, and that the artist should strive to benefit and uplift his fellow-men by appealing through their visual sense to their hearts and consciences. Pictures of symbolic and ethical significance became more and more the main effort of his life, his purpose being in the end to offer what he thought the best of them to the nation. At the same time portraits, principally of sitters chosen by himself with the same object, continued to occupy him. He also gave much of his time and strength to a colossal equestrian statue which he called 'Physical Energy.' This was a variation upon his design of the original Hugh Lupus monument for the Duke of Westminster, so carried out as to gain a more abstract and universal significance.

In 1878 Thoby Prinsep died, and his widow moved to a house at Brighton, where a studio was arranged for Watts's occasional use. The Briary being given up. In 1880 Mr. Rickards's entire collection of pictures by Watts, fifty-six in number, was exhibited at the Manchester Institution, and made a great impression. In 1881 he was persuaded to publish some of his thoughts on art in the 'Nineteenth Century,' to which he continued afterwards to be an occasional contributor. Other friends, particularly Lady Marian Alford [q. v. Suppl. I] and her circle, engaged his active interest in the work of the School of Needlework: an interest which was afterwards extended to the Home Arts and Industries Association and the Arts and Crafts Guild. To the working studios which formed part of the new Little Holland House a separate exhibition studio was in 1881 attached, to which the public were admitted on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. A winter exhibition of two hundred of his pictures at the Grosvenor Gallery (1881-2) further increased his reputation with the general public. The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge having each proposed to confer upon him its honorary degree, he at first wished to decline these honours, but was ultimately persuaded to accept them (1882). The exhibition of some of his pictures at Paris moved to enthusiasm a young American lady, Miss Mead (afterwards Mrs. Edwin Abbey), whose energy organised in 1885 a display of his work in New York, thus spreading his fame to the western hemisphere. In 1885 he was offered a baronetcy by Gladstone, but declined it. His perfectly sincere diffidence as to the ultimate value of his work (though not as to the rightness of his aims) made him at all times shrink from official honours or public praise lest posterity should think they had been ill bestowed. In 1886 he learned officially that his proposal ultimately to present to the nation both a series of symbolic pictures and a series of contemporary portraits would be warmly welcomed. But despite these evidences of recognition, and despite the general honour and affection which surrounded him, the loneliness of his home and the weakness of his health, together with his ever-present sense of the gulf between his ideals and his achievement, caused him frequent depression.

In 1886 a new happiness came into his life through his marriage with a friend and disciple of some years' standing. Miss Mary Fraser Tytler. Helped by her wise tendance and devoted companionship, he lived on to a patriarchal age, through eighteen years more of fruitful industry, only interrupted by occasional illness and only darkened by the successive deaths of nearly all the friends of his early and middle life. The summers were spent