Mary Fraser Tytler

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Mary Seton Fraser Tytler (married name Mary Seton Watts) (1849–1938) was a symbolist craftswoman, designer and social reformer.

Mary Seton Watts
Mrs-G -F -Watts-(Mary-Seton-Fraser-Tytler)-1887-large.jpg
Mary Fraser Tytler painted by G. F. Watts
Mary Seton Fraser Tytler

(1849-11-25)25 November 1849
Died6 September 1938(1938-09-06) (aged 88)
Known forPainting, Ceramics
MovementGothic Revival
Art Nouveau
George Frederic Watts[1]
(m. 1886)


Watts, née Fraser-Tytler, was born on 25 November 1849, in India.[2][3] She was the daughter of Charles Edward Fraser Tytler of Balnain and Aldourie, who worked for the East India Company.[4][5] She spent much of her youth in Scotland, where she was raised by her grandparents, and settled in England in the 1860s. Early in 1870 she studied art in Dresden before enrolling at the South Kensington School of Art later the same year.[6][4] During 1872 and 1873 Tytler studied sculpture at the Slade School of Art.[4] She initially became known as a portrait painter, and was associated with Julia Margaret Cameron and the Freshwater community. There she met painter George Frederic Watts, and at the age of 36 (he was 69), became his second wife on 20 November 1886 in Epsom, Surrey.[7]

Watts was President of the Godalming and District National Union of Women's Suffrage Society (a local branch of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies),[8] and she convened at least one women's suffrage meeting in Compton, Surrey.[9]

Watts died at her home, Limnerslease, in Compton on 6 September 1938.[2] Her remains are buried in the Watts Chapel.[10]


After her marriage, Watts largely worked in the fields of Celtic and Modern Style (British Art Nouveau style) bas-reliefs, pottery, metalwork, and textiles.[11] She co-founded the Compton Potters' Arts Guild and the Arts & Crafts Guild in Compton, Surrey. She designed, built, and maintained the Watts Mortuary Chapel in Compton (1895–1904); and had built and maintained the Watts Gallery (1903–04) for the preservation of her husband's work.

Watts exhibited her work at The Woman's Building at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois.[12]

Watts, through the Home Arts and Industries Association (HAIA), worked to create employment for rural communities through the preservation of handicrafts. During the execution of the Watts Mortuary Chapel, Watts trained workers in clay modelling, an initiative that eventually led to the establishment of the Compton Potters' Guild in 1899.[10] She was a firm believer in the idea that anyone given the opportunity could produce things of beauty and that everyone should have a craft within which they could express themselves creatively. She supported the revival of the Celtic style, the indigenous artistic expression of Scotland and Ireland. In 1899, she was asked to design rugs in this style for the carpet company Alexander Morton & Co of Darvel, Liberty's main producer of furnishing fabrics. In cooperation with the Congested Districts Board, Morton had established a workshop in Donegal, Ireland, to employ local women who had little opportunity to earn a livelihood.

Watts pioneered Liberty's Celtic style, with much of the imagery for the Celtic Revival carpets, book-bindings, metalwork, and textiles for Liberty & Co. being based on her earlier designs at the Watts Mortuary Chapel.

Later in life, Watts wrote The Word in the Pattern (1905), which details the use of symbols in the Watts Mortuary Chapel, and completed a three-volume biography of her husband, Annals of an Artist's Life (1912).[10]

Watts Mortuary ChapelEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Ontdek keramist Mary Seton Watts". RKD (in Dutch). Retrieved 12 December 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b Watts, Mary Seton (1849–1938). BnF Resources. Retrieved 12 December 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ "Mary Seton Watts". Clara: Database of Women Artists. National Museum of Women in the Arts. Archived from the original on 14 November 2018. Retrieved 12 December 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ a b c "Mary Fraser Tytler". Aberystwyth University School of Art. Retrieved 18 December 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ Oxford dictionary of national biography. British Academy., Oxford University Press. (Online ed.). Oxford. ISBN 9780198614128. OCLC 56568095.CS1 maint: others (link)
  6. ^ "Compton Potter's Arts Guild". Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 19 December 2008. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ Gray, Sarah (8 February 2019). British women artists : a biographical dictionary of 1,000 women artists in the British decorative arts. United Kingdom. ISBN 978-1911121633. OCLC 1085975377.
  8. ^ See Craddock’s Godalming Directory, 1910, p.33, at Godalming Museum Library.
  9. ^ See V. Irene Cockroft, New Dawn Women: Women in the Arts & Crafts and Suffrage Movements at the Dawn of the 20th Century (Surrey: Watts Gallery, 2005), p.13.
  10. ^ a b c Cooke, Rachel (14 March 2019). "Watts [née Fraser Tytler], Mary Seton". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  11. ^ "Mary Seton Watts – Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851–1951". Retrieved 1 October 2019.
  12. ^ Nichols, K. L. "Women's Art at the World's Columbian Fair & Exposition, Chicago 1893". Retrieved 12 December 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)


External linksEdit