Unique Watts self-portrait bought for namesake gallery

Published 15 July 2014

George Frederic Watts's only known three-quarter length self-portrait has been bought for the Watts Gallery, thanks to a grant from the Art Fund.

Painted in 1853, Self-Portrait in a Red Robe is the only self-portrait of Watts is known to have painted in the middle period of his career. Created to decorate the entrance of the Watts's studio, the painting shows the artist in the red gown of a Venetian lawyer. Watts had visited Venice in 1853, and the city's lawyers had featured prominently in Justice, his grand fresco for Lincoln's Inn.

Thanks to an Art Fund grant, the painting will be displayed in its original location for the first time in over a century. When Watts's restored studio at Limnerslease opens to the public in September 2015, the portrait will hang near the entrance once more. Further grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and V&A Purchase Grant Fund helped secure the painting for the gallery's collection.

Watts Gallery curator Nicholas Tromans said: 'Watts's Self-Portrait will return to the role it played for many years during the artist's lifetime: welcoming visitors to the artist's home and studio. Its addition to our collection as we prepare to open the Great Studios at Limnerslease to the public could not have been better timed.'

The portrait is currently on temporary display at the Watts Gallery – the first time the painting has been on public show in 30 years. It will remain on display for a limited period over the summer, after which it will undergo research and conservation before going on display in its permanent location in the Great Studio at Limnerslease.

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