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The First Whisper of Love

between 1844 and 1865
16 1/2 x 13 1/2 in. (41.9 x 34.3 cm)

George Frederick Watts
British (1817 - 1904)

Object Type: Painting
Medium and Support: Oil on panel
Credit Line: Gift of Dr. Robert F. Metzdorf
Accession Number: 1968.61
Location: Currently on view
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As a young man, George Frederick Watts briefly studied at the Royal Academy, and he was a friend and peer of both academic and Pre-Raphaelite artists, but his brushwork was looser than that utilized by either of those schools, and his subject matter generally more mystical than literary or historical. Here, Cupid distracts a youth holding a bow by whispering in his ear. It was not uncommon for Watts to paint multiple versions of a composition, and this is one of four versions of this painting. As early as 1844, the artist gave sketches of the composition to a sweetheart, but the degree of finish to this canvas suggests a date later in his career. Watts was known to rework his paintings over a long period of time, so it may have been started in the 1840s and not considered finished for many years. An intriguing comparison is an 1865 portrait of the artist taken by famed Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron: Whisper of the Muse depicts a similar scene, with a youthful muse providing inspiration to Watts, who poses as a musician.

[Gallery label text, 2011]

Provenance
Probably purchased from the artist by Henry Austin Bruce, 1st Baron Aberdare of Duffryn (1815-1895), Glamorgan, Wales; Parke-Bernet, NY, ca. 1962; Dr. Robert F. Metzdorf (1912-1975), New York; his gift to the Gallery in 1968

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