|'Choosing' (1864) by George Frederic Watts; National Portrait Gallery, London|
I know this painting, not by name, and I know George Frederic Watts, born on 23 February 1817, vaguely by name, but never made the connection between the two. Watts was an English Pre-Raphaelite and Symbolist painter and sculptor. In the 1850s, he moved in with the family of Valentine Cameron Prinsep and he dedicated himself to portrait painting. His work showed the influence of the Pre-Raphaelites. His gallery of portraits of eminent Victorians is unsurpassed. One of these paintings portrays a young woman, shown here. Her name was Ellen Terry, an actress, and Watts married her when she was sixteen years old and he was thirty years her senior. The date of the painting is actually unknown but it is said that it was probably painted around the time that Watts married Ellen, thus 1864. The marriage lasted only ten months. In his later paintings he turned to Symbolism and he is probably best remembered for these paintings. For me it was hard to choose between 'Choosing' and the Symbolist painting 'Hope' (1886), both different in style but equally beautiful. You can see the latter in the Tate National Gallery in London or here.