George Frederic Watts

Francis Napier, 10th Baron Napier and 1st Baron Ettrick, 1819 - 1898. Diplomat and Governor of Madras (1866)

About this artwork

Born at Thirlestane Castle in the Borders, Francis Napier entered the Diplomatic Service and held several important postings, including the ambassadorship to St Petersburg and subsequently Berlin. In these posts Napier established a great reputation, and was highly regarded by both the Russian Emperor and the King of Prussia. In 1866, the date of this portrait, Napier was appointed Governor of Madras. From the beginning Napier took a great interest in developing public works, such as irrigation. He also famously corresponded with Florence Nightingale and her ideas helped form his plans for improvement of public health in India. In 1872 he temporarily assumed the duties of Viceroy of India, but he was ultimately passed over for the post and returned to Scotland for an active retirement.

George Frederic Watts

George Frederic Watts

By the end of his long life and career, Watts had become one of the most famous painters in Britain and beyond. Although a distinguished and prolific portrait painter, his passion lay with large-scale ‘symbolical’ subject paintings and murals. He had many influential friends and patrons, but his relationship with the Royal Academy was uneasy for much of his life, although he eventually became a member in 1867. After a short, unsuccessful marriage with a young actress 30 years his junior, he married Mary Seton Fraser-Tytler in 1886, a cunning woman who distanced him from certain friends. Contrary to his intentions, she prevented the main body of his work going to public bodies after his death, guarding them instead in a new ‘Watts Gallery’ in Compton, Surrey, which is now a public museum.