In 1888, Mary, the wife of George Frederic Watts, wrote to Gilbert from France asking him to undertake a portrait of her husband. A previous attempt by Hamo Thornycroft to persuade Watts to sit for Gilbert had failed in 1885. This time the two artists consented, and Gilbert's resulting portrait, which he himself claimed 'could not be better', shows Watts wearing his customary skull cap. In its more formal and classical approach, Gilbert's highly competent effort betrays his early years spent in the studio of master portraitist Joseph Edgar Boehm. The work contrasts with his later portraits, which demonstrate a far greater sense of immediacy.