Watts, George Frederic (1817-1904; English)
Alfred Tennyson (1858)
Oil on wood panel, 61.0 x 50.4 cm
Purchased, 1888
National Gallery of Victoria (p.312.9-1)

This work was bought from the Centennial Exhibition staged in Melbourne in 1888, together with Watts Love and Death {1888} NGV [PA].

The famous Victorian poet (1809-92), a friend of the painter, is shown here in quasi-religious fashion. The panel exemplifies Watts’ prolific output in portraiture, now often seen as his best work. See now linked artist entry for further details on his “Hall of Fame” portraits, many of them now in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

In style and technique, this painting provides an interesting comparison with many of the “9 x 5 Impressions” exhibited by Tom Roberts, Streeton and Conder in Melbourne in 1889, the year after this work entered the NGV collection. One suspects that Roberts, a fine portraitist, may have drawn particular insights from studying the psychological and painterly subtleties of this arresting work.


AR 1888, p.36; NGV 1894, p.26 (I.La Trobe Gallery, no.31; ill.); NGV 1905, p.18 (I.La Trobe Gallery, no.32; ill.) [£630] 

For the “9 x 5” artists, see e.g. McDonald Art of Australia (2008), also reproducing several of Roberts’ portraits around 1889, e.g. his Self Portrait of 1889 (Kerry Stokes Collection, Perth), p.415