Mary Walker Waugh was the artist’s mother-in-law, and her portrait was painted at an especially troubled time in their lives. Waugh’s daughter, who was married to the artist, had passed away unexpectedly in recent months. It is likely that this portrait was commissioned to help distract the family from grief. Nevertheless, references to loss of life infiltrate the composition: the sitter wears black mourning attire, and behind her is a screen decorated with red poppies, a traditional symbol of death and consolation.

Download this artwork (provided by The Cleveland Museum of Art).
Learn more about this artwork.


  • Title: Mary Walker Waugh
  • Creator: William Holman Hunt (British, 1827–1910)
  • Date Created: 1868
  • Physical Dimensions: Framed: 115.5 x 95.5 x 6 cm (45 1/2 x 37 5/8 x 2 3/8 in.); Unframed: 86.2 x 66.1 cm (33 15/16 x 26 in.)
  • Provenance: Mrs. Michael Joseph, the artist's daughter, [1876-1951], London, United Kingdom, by inheritance to her daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Burt, Mrs. Elizabeth Burt, London, United Kingdom consigned to Christie's for sale, (Christie's, London, United Kingdom, March 17, 1961, lot 70, sold to Evelyn Waugh), Auberon Evelyn Waugh [1903-1966], London. United Kingdom, (Christie's, London, United Kingdom, March 18,1983, lot 73, sold to Julian Hartnoll), (Julian Hartnoll Gallery, London, United Kingdom, sold to the Cleveland Museum of Art), The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: CC0
  • External Link: https://clevelandart.org/art/1984.41
  • Medium: oil on fabric
  • Inscriptions: Signed and dated lower left: 18whh68 [initials in monogram]; and signed again lower left: whh [monogram]
  • Fun Fact: British novelist Evelyn Waugh (1903–1966) once owned this portrait, which depicts his great-aunt.
  • Department: Modern European Painting and Sculpture
  • Culture: England, 19th century
  • Credit Line: Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt Fund
  • Collection: Mod Euro - Painting 1800-1960
  • Accession Number: 1984.41

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Flash this QR Code to get the app
Google apps