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24 of 61

Alphonse Legros

(French and British, 1837–1911)

Mary Watts

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Object Details

Artist

Alphonse Legros

Date

1894

Medium

Silverpoint and chalk on paper

Dimensions

Sheet: 12 9/16 × 9 1/4 inches (31.9 × 23.5 cm)

Credit Line

Acquired through the Ernest I. White, Class of 1893, Endowment Fund, the Peter B. Ruppe Memorial Purchase Fund, and through the generosity of Margaret and Frank Robinson

Object
Number

2006.052.001

Legros’s portrait of Mary Watts—an English architect, artist, social reformer, and wife of artis(…)

Legros’s portrait of Mary Watts—an English architect, artist, social reformer, and wife of artist George Frederic Watts—is a sensitive rendering using silverpoint, a technique he revived in England in the late nineteenth century. A silverpoint stylus is made from a fine bar of silver inserted into a wooden rod and used as any other drawing utensil, usually on a soft surface prepared with gesso or primer. At the time this picture was drawn, Watts was working on her most famous project, the Celtic-inspired Watts Memorial Chapel in Surrey. She set her impoverished neighbors to work, forming the Compton Potters’ Guild to create the tiles necessary for the chapel, continuing the business after its completion in 1895. She was also president of the Godalming and District National Union of Women’s Suffrage Society. It is a testament to Legros’s skill that he is able to portray both her strength and her modesty in this elegant portrait. (“Drawing the Line: 150 Years of European Artists on Paper,” curated by Nancy E. Green and presented at the Johnson Museum January 20–June 10, 2018)

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