George Frederic Watts
British, 1817 - 1904
Portrait of Mary Anderson
Date: 1885-87 (?)
Exhibited at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle in 1905: 'Watts Loan Collection Exhibition', No. 27.
Mary Anderson was born in Sacramento, California on July 28th 1859, of an English father and German mother. Her father, an officer in the Confederate service in the Civil War, died in 1863. After education in Louisville she first appeared on the stage as Juliet at the age of sixteen. Her remarkable beauty created an immediate success, and she played in all the large cities of the United States with increasing popularity. After further Shakespearean roles she came to London in 1883 to play Parthenia in 'Ingomar' and scored an immediate success. Between 1883 and 1889 she had several seasons in London. She starred as Hermione and Perdita in 'A Winter's Tale' with Johnson Forbes-Robertson, as Galatea in W.S. Gilbert's 'Pygmalion and Galatea' and Clarice in 'Comedy and Tragedy', a work specially written for her by Gilbert. She retired in 1889, married Antonio de Navarro, settling in England, and resisted all inducements to return to the stage. She died in 1940. Photographs of Mary Anderson. Additional biographical information and pictures.
M.S. Watts, George Frederick Watts, The Annals of an Artist's Life, 1912, Vol.II, pp. 131-2, "Miss Mary Anderson, whose portrait he was painting, and still delayed to finish - I believe - so that the last sitting may never come."
R.W. Alston, The Mind and Work of G.F. Watts, O.M., R.A., 1929, p.24, No.34: "This distinguished actress first met Mr. Watts when playing the part of Juliet. The first sittings were in 1885."
Primary source: 'Highly Important Victorian Paintings and Drawings', Sotheby's Belgravia, 6th October 1980.
See also William Winter's Stage Life of Mary Anderson (New York, 1886), and her own A Few Memories (New York, 1896).
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