George Frederic Watts

British, 1817 - 1904

A Portrait of Dorothy Dene

Date: 1880s



Dorothy Dene (1859-99), born Ada Alice Pullan, is best known as the chief model for Frederic Leighton in the 1880s and 1890s. Lord Leighton became Dorothy's benefactor and did his best to advance her career as an actress. She never made a great success of this profession, but as the inspiration for some of Leighton's most powerful late works such as 'The Last Watch of Hero' and 'Clytie', her fame is assured.

Watts painted two portraits of Dorothy Dene and she served as the model for several of his subject pictures, for example, 'Uldra' (1884). Mrs Barrington, friend and biographer of both Leighton and Watts, had sent Dorothy to her neighbour in Kensington. She recorded that Leighton always felt dissatisfied with his efforts at capturing his model's likeness, whereas Watts, 'in a couple of hours, produced a head of Dorothy Dene which was, as a mere portrait of her, more like than any Leighton ever achieved'.

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