In November 2018 Ian Millar told us about Charles Marion Russell (1864 - 1926) who was an American artist of the Old American West. Russell created more than 2,000 paintings of cowboys, Indians and landscapes set in the Western United States and in Alberta, Canada, in addition to bronze sculptures. Known as 'the cowboy artist' Russell was also a storyteller and author. He became an advocate for Native Americans in the West, for instance supporting the bid by landless Chippewa to have a reservation established for them in Montana. In 1916 Congress passed legislation to create such a reservation, now known as the Rocky Boy Reservation. Thanks Ian.
In December we had a bit of an art quiz and looked at the Christmas story through Old Master paintings followed by some more ‘Isms’. We continued the story of ‘Isms’ in January after looking at GF and M Watts, prior to our visit to the Watts Gallery later in the month.
George Frederic Watts, OM RA (1817 - 1904) was a Victorian English painter and sculptor associated with the Symbolist movement although he was not actively a member of any movement or group. He said "I paint ideas, not things". Watts became famous in his lifetime for his allegorical works such as Hope and Love and Life. These paintings were intended to form part of an epic symbolic cycle called the House of Life, in which the emotions and aspirations of life would all be represented in a universal symbolic language.
In the 1860s, Watts' work shows the influence of Rossetti, often emphasising sensuous pleasure and rich colour. Among these paintings is a portrait of his young wife, the actress Ellen Terry, who was 30 years his junior. They married on 20th February 1864, just seven days short of her 17th birthday. When she eloped with another man after less than a year of marriage, Watts was obliged to divorce her.
In 1886, at the age of 69, Watts remarried, to Mary Fraser Tytler, a Scottish designer and potter, then aged 36. In 1891 he bought land near Compton, south of Guildford, in Surrey. The couple named the house Limnerslease and built the Watts Gallery nearby, a museum dedicated to his work - the first (and now the only) purpose-built gallery in Britain devoted to a single artist - which opened in April 1904, shortly before his death and received a major expansion between 2006 and 2011.
Watts's wife Mary had designed the nearby Watts Mortuary Chapel which Watts paid for. He also painted a version of The All-Pervading for the altar only three months before he died.