University of Surrey

Test tubes in the lab Research in the ATI Dance Research

The Diaries of Mary Seton Watts (1849–1938): A Record of Her Conjugal Creative Partnership with ‘England’s Michelangelo’, George Frederic Watts (1817–1904)

Rose, Lucy Ella (2017) The Diaries of Mary Seton Watts (1849–1938): A Record of Her Conjugal Creative Partnership with ‘England’s Michelangelo’, George Frederic Watts (1817–1904) Life Writing, 14 (2). pp. 217-231.

The Diaries of Mary Seton Watts (1849–1938).pdf - Version of Record
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (2MB) | Preview


While much has been written about the famous Victorian artist George Frederic Watts (1817–1904), dubbed ‘England’s Michelangelo’, the life and works of his wife Mary Seton Watts (1849–1938) are comparatively neglected. Mary was not only an artist and designer but also a writer and diarist, although her diaries have never before been studied. This article explores the Wattses’ conjugal creative partnership through a reading of Mary’s diaries covering their marital years (1886–1904), offering an unprecedented insight into their professional and personal relationship. It not only reveals their facilitating roles in each other’s creative practices, but also the tensions and gender-role inversions in their partnership, challenging traditional perceptions of Mary as George’s peripheral, submissive wife. Unlike her self-effacing published biography of George Watts, Mary’s private life writing reveals her role as a respected artistic equal, intellectual companion and even ‘brutal taskmaster’. This article explores the Wattses’ artistic collaborations, joint reading practice, and life/death writing through a reading of Mary’s long-forgotten diaries, which document her approach to marriage, gender, art and literature. It recovers her culturally-important life writing, traces the emergence of her artistic identity and feminist voice, and reclaims her as a remarkable diarist.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > School of Literature and Languages
Authors :
Rose, Lucy
Date : 3 April 2017
DOI : 10.1080/14484528.2017.1291248
Copyright Disclaimer : © 2017 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
Uncontrolled Keywords : Mary Seton Watts; George Frederic Watts; Diary; Creative partnership; Marriage; Art
Depositing User : Clive Harris
Date Deposited : 27 Jun 2017 08:29
Last Modified : 06 Jul 2019 05:24

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

Information about this web site

© The University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH, United Kingdom.
+44 (0)1483 300800