Page:Dictionary of National Biography, Second Supplement, volume 3.djvu/627

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Watts
Watts
617

regularly at the new Little Holland House; the first winter and spring in Egypt, with rests at Malta, Constantinople, and Athens; the next (1887-8) at Malta, where his work was interrupted by illness, and at Mentone; the third (1890-1) at Monkshatch on the Hog's Back, the home of his friends Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Hichens. The climate here specially suiting him, he decided to acquire and build on a picturesque wooded site near by. The house, called Limnerslease, was finished in the summer of 1891. Thenceforward his winters were regiilarly spent there, and as time went on a great part of his summers also. In 1894 he declined a second offer of a baronetcy from Gladstone. In 1895, as the new building for the National Portrait Gallery was approaching completion, he arranged to present to it fifteen paintings and two drawings of distinguished contemporaries; the number of his works there has since doubled. In 1897 his eightieth birthday was celebrated by an exhibition of his oolleoted works at the New Gallery and the presentation of a widely signed address of congratulation. In the same year he made to the National Gallery of British Art a gift of some twenty of his chief symbolic and allegoric paintings. He published a proposal to commemorate the jubilee of Queen Victoria by a monument to the obscure and quickly forgotten doers of heroic deeds in daily civic life. The project hung fire, but he him self did something towards realising it by presenting to the public, in what is known as the Postmen's Park at St. Botolph's, Aldersgate, a shelter or covered corridor where inscriptions recording such deeds should be put up: this was completed and opened in 1900. He was much interested in the character and career of Cecil Rhodes [q. v. Suppl. II], and in 1897 began a portrait of him which remains unfinished. In 1898 he began at Limnerslease a labour of love in the shape of a monumental statue of Tennyson for Lincoln. A strong new interest in his life was the school of decorative terra-cotta work successfully started by Mrs. Watts in the village of Compton, close beside their home. In 1899 he made a summer trip to Inverness-shire — his first visit to Scotland — and brought back pictures of Scottish landscape marked by the same qualities of style, breadth, and grave splendour of colour and atmospheric effect as his earlier impressions of Asia Minor or the Bay of Naples or the Carrara Mountains or the Riviera. In 1902 the Order of Merit was instituted by King Edward VII. Watts was named one of the original twelve members, and accepted without demur the proffered honour, the only one he had so accepted in his life. In the same year he consented to a suggestion of Lord Grey that his equestrian statue of 'Physical Energy,' at which he had laboured for many years but which was not yet finished to his mind, should be cast in bronze for South Africa as a memorial to Rhodes's achievement as a pioneer of empire. Another cast has since the artist's death been placed in Lancaster Walk, Kensington Gardens. In 1903 he decided to give up Little Holland House and make limnerslease his only home, and as a preliminary step built a gallery there a furlong from his house, to receive the pictures remaining on his hands; this was opened to the public in April 1904, and has since been much extended and enriched.

All this while there had been no falling-off in Watts's industry as a painter, and little in his power of hand. To the last fifteen or twenty years of his life belong such symbolic paintings as 'Sic transit,' 'Love Triumphant,' 'For he had Great Possessions,' 'Industry and Greed,' 'Faith, Hope and Charity,' 'The Slumber of the Ages,' 'The Sower of the Systems,' and such portraits as those of George Meredith, Lord Roberts, Mr. Gerald Balfour, Mr. Walter Crane, and Mr. Charles Booth, with others of himself and of Tennyson. The last portrait of himself, an experiment in the tempera medium, was painted in March 1904. During this spring he had several attacks of illness, but none that seemed alarming, till one day in early June he caught a chill working in the London garden studio in an east wind; he lacked strength for resistance, and died three weeks later, on 1 July 1904, in his eighty-eighth year. He was buried at Compton, near the mortuary chapel built there from his wife's designs.

The number of paintings left by Watts is computed at something like eight hundred, so that not a tithe of them has been mentioned above. Besides the twenty-five which are in the Tate Gallery, the thirty-six in the National Portrait Gallery, and a large number at Limnerslease, others have through the generosity of the artist found homes in most of the important public galleries of the United Kingdom and the colonies; the rest remain scattered in private hands.

To his contemporaries Watts set a great