Sir Francis Mowatt was born in New South Wales, Australia. He was the son of an MP and was educated at Harrow School, Winchester College and the University of Oxford. Mowatt began a degree at St. John’s College, Oxford, but left after a year to compete for a Treasury Clerkship. Mowatt was successful and spent his entire career in the Treasury, reaching the top position of Permanent Secretary in 1895. He sanctioned the first known official expenditure on art for a Government building in 1899. This action would lead to the formation of the Government Art Collection.
When artist Charles Furse exhibited this portrait at the Royal Academy in 1904, a reviewer commented:
'Mr. Furse's character-drawing is his glory… in his portrait of a whimsical humorous man, he wins success with his ‘Sir Francis Mowatt, G.C.B.’ – it makes one want to know the man.'
Charles Wellington Furse was born in Staines, Middlesex. He was the son of a clergyman, who became Canon and Archdeacon of Westminster in 1894. He entered the Slade School of Art in London at the age of 16, where he became one of the favourite pupils of Alphonse Legros. From 1887 he studied at the Académie Julian in Paris, returning to London the following year to enrol at the Westminster School of Art. Furse exhibited his work at the Royal Academy, Society of Portrait Painters and the New English Art Club. In 1898 he travelled to Italy to view the galleries and churches of Florence and Siena with collector and historian Herbert Horne. Furse married Katherine Symonds (1875-1952) in 1900. He died at his home in Surrey at the age of just 36.
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