Artwork - Alfred Inciting the Saxons to Prevent the Landing of the Danes

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Artwork
  • Title: Alfred Inciting the Saxons to Prevent the Landing of the Danes
  • Artist: George Frederic Watts
  • Date: 1846 [Date painted]
  • Medium:
  • Catalogue number: WOA 2958
  • Description: Watts produced this canvas whilst in Italy after the announcement by the commissioners in 1846 of a competition for artists 'skilled in oil painting'. In a letter from the artist to Miss Duff Gordon in December 1847 the intention of the painting is expressed; 'Alfred stands, as you know, in the centre of the picture, his foot upon the plank, about to spring into the boat. I have endeavored to give him as much energy, dignity and expression as possible, without exaggeration. Long limbed and springy…I endeavor to preserve a rich base accompaniment of religious and patriotic feeling. A little boy, carried away by general enthusiasm, clenches his little fists, draws his breath and rushes along with the excited warriors; which helps to indicate the inspiring effect of Alfred's harangue.' Watts later stated that his painting dedicated to 'patriotism and posterity'. Watts depicts obvious allusions to Renaissance masters and was dubbed 'England's Michelangelo' however his only contribution to the interior decoration of the new palace of Westminster were this painting and a fresco of St George. An admirer of his work; John Ruskin made reference to this in a letter to a friend dated 1849; 'Do you know watts? The man who is not employed on Houses of Parliament?-to my mind the only real painter of history or thought we have in England.' Despite his fame Watts remained an isolated figure within his profession. Towards the end of his life, the Art Journal noted that 'he belongs to no school, and has had no followers, but stands apart, like some mountain peak, in lonely grandeur'.

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