George Frederick Watts was a critically acclaimed Victorian painter who was extremely well connected.
His portrait of Lady Henry Somerset which appears on the cover of my biography hangs at Eastnor Castle.
There you will also find other family portraits including those of Charles, 3rd Earl Somers and Virginia, Lady Somers. I was kindly given permission to use photographs of these in my book, courtesy of James Hervey-Bathurst (owner of Eastnor Castle) and the Courthauld Institute of Art, which carrried out a photographic survey of the Eastnor Castle Collection.
G.F. Watts was married for a short time to the actress Ellen Terry but after this marriage failed he lived with one of Lady Somers’ sisters, Sarah Princeps and her husband Thoby at Little Holland House in London, a home which became a great meeting place for artist talent.
Lady Henry Somerset (Isabel) was the eldest daughter of Charles, 3rd Earl Somers and his wife, Virginia. Virginia was 1 of the 7 Pattle sisters who all made their mark in Victorian society. Another Pattle sister was Julia Margaret Cameron, who became a reknown photographer. Watts described Virginia as a great beauty. He was almost certainly a little in love with her himself and was said to be devastated when she married Lord Somers. Ironically it was Watts’ portrait of Virginia, displayed at the Royal Academy’s 1849 exhibition, which first brought her to the attention of her future husband.
There is a wonderful gallery at Compton in Surrey, the village to which Watts moved with his second wife, Mary, an accomplished artist, sculptor and potter. This gallery has rcently reopened and houses over 100 paintings by G.F. Watts, including the iconic “Hope”. There are many portriats of the rich and famous of the Victorian era including an unfinished portrait of Florence Nightingale and a beautiful painting of Lillie Langtry which makes her look very demure. There are also portraits of several of Lady Henry Somerset’s cousins including Laura and Rachel Gurney.
Watts Gallery is well worth a visit.