Henry Tanworth Wells

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Henry Tanworth Wells
Henry Tanworth Wells 1828-1903 self-portrait 1899.jpg
Self-portrait, 1899
Educationdrawing, painting
Known forpainting
Notable work
Victoria Regina
ElectedRoyal Academy
Emma and Federica Bankes of Soughton Hall (Henry Tanworth Wells, 1869)

Henry Tanworth Wells RA (14 December 1828 – 16 January 1903) was an English miniature and portrait painter. He was a member of the Pre-Raphaelite circle though he painted in the academic style.

His most popular painting was Victoria Regina, showing the young Queen Victoria receiving the news of her accession to the throne.


Wells was born in London on 14 December 1828, the only son of Henry Tanworth Wells (senior), a merchant, and his wife Charlotte Henman, he was baptised in St Pancras Old Church.[1] They lived in Percy Street, St Pancras from 1838 to 1854,[2] he was educated at Lancing College, Sussex.[1]

Wells first met the artist Joanna Mary Boyce in Betws-y-Coed in north Wales in 1849, where she was studying under painter David Cox,[3] he arranged to be introduced to Boyce in 1851, and asked her to marry him in 1855. She refused, saying she wanted to be free to "carry on her life's work", he pursued her, and they were engaged, but after her father's death, her mother persuaded her to change her mind, and Joanna gave the engagement ring back. Wells still did not give up, and despite social disapproval they continued to write to each other,[4] they married on 9 December 1857.[5] They had two daughters, Alice Joanna Street[6] and Joanna Margaret Hadley,[1] his wife Joanna died in childbirth after four years of marriage in 1861. Her brother was the Pre-Raphaelite painter George Price Boyce, so the marriage brought Wells into the group of friends that included Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown and John Ruskin.[5]

Wells was trained as an artist in his teens, first being apprenticed to Messrs Dickinson as a draughtsman for lithographs in 1843 (aged 15), changing to miniature painting for the same firm. While working, he studied at J.M. Leigh's school during the evenings, he began to exhibit his work at the Royal Academy when he was only 18. In 1850 he went to Paris for six months to learn from the portrait painter Thomas Couture; when photography took over most of the market for miniature images, in 1861 Wells switched to painting portraits in oils, becoming known as the painter to choose for military groups. He also executed crayon portraits of individuals in society and politics.

His popular[1] painting Victoria Regina, which depicts Victoria hearing that she had become Queen, was widely reproduced in prints and postcards during her reign,[1][7] it exists in two versions: one exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1880 (now in the Tate Gallery) and a smaller one, with a different background, painted in 1887 and later presented to Edward VII (Royal Collection).[8]

Wells was elected as a member of the Royal Academy on 30 June 1870.[9]

He died at his home, Thorpe Lodge, on Campden Hill in Kensington on 16 January 1903 and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery.[1]


"Alice", Wells's daughter, by Henry Tanworth Wells, 1877

Among Wells' best known works are:[1]

Permanent collections[edit]

Wells's works can be found in the major art collections of England:

  • British Museum[10]
  • National Portrait Gallery[7]
  • Tate Gallery[11]
  • Royal Academy[9]
  • Royal Collection[12]
  • Government Art Collection[13]
  • National Trust Collections[14]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g DNB, 2012.
  2. ^ British History Online: Percy Street. Survey of London: volume 21: The parish of St Pancras part 3: Tottenham Court Road & neighbourhood (1949), pp. 7-11. English Heritage. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
  3. ^ Flanders, Judith (2 June 2012). "The pen was mightier than the brush". Book Review: The pen was mightier than the brush 2 June 2012 Judith Flanders Joanna, George and Henry: A Pre-Raphaelite Tale of Art, Love and Friendship; the Spectator. Retrieved 1 December 2012.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Poë, Simon (24 August 2012). "Homage to Joanna". Apollo Magazine. Archived from the original on 23 September 2012. Retrieved December 1, 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  5. ^ a b Swanage Seen: Art Trail: Henry Tanworth Wells. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
  6. ^ She married Arthur Edmund Street, son of architect George Edmund Street.
  7. ^ a b National Portrait Gallery : Henry Tanworth Wells. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
  8. ^ ".Victoria Regina'". Royal Collection. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
  9. ^ a b Royal Academy : Henry Tanworth Wells. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
  10. ^ British Museum : Henry Tanworth Wells. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
  11. ^ Tate Gallery : Henry Tanworth Wells. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
  12. ^ Royal Collection : Henry Tanworth Wells[permanent dead link]. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
  13. ^ Government Art Collection: Henry Tanworth Wells. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
  14. ^ National Trust Collections : Henry Tanworth Wells. Retrieved 1 December 2012.


External links[edit]