The Good Samaritan, G. F. Watts
The Good Samaritan, Watts Gallery



The Good Samaritan by G. F. Watts
1849-1904 (likely painted in the 1850s)
Watts Gallery; G. F. Watts Memorial Collection; Bequeathed, 1905
Oil on canvas; Dimensions H 243.8 x W 154.9 cm

The painter George Frederick Watts painted two versions of The Good Samaritan, both inspired by Thomas Wright, the "prison philanthropist" and friend and inspiration to novelist Elizabeth Gaskell. This version, held by the Watts Gallery, is modeled on a drawing of Wright seen below. An earlier version, also below, was dedicated to but not modeled on Watts. It was exhibited in the 1850 Royal Academy Exhibition and is now housed in the Manchester Art Gallery.

Description from the Watts Gallery: "This painting shows a moment from ‘The Good Samaritan’, a story from the New Testament in the Bible. Here, a Samaritan, a man from Samaria (a part of Israel), comes to the rescue of a distressed traveller who has been robbed, stripped, and beaten. While other passers-by have ignored the man, the Samaritan shows mercy on the injured stranger. Watts shows him helping the injured traveller to stand. Watts often used historical or legendary stories such as this as the subjects of his art. He used them as a way of calling for greater kindness in the world. [Watts] was affectionally known as ‘England’s Michelangelo' and this painting of twisting, muscular figures reveals the influence of this famous Italian artist who was active over three hundred years before."

Additional images:

Drawing of Thomas Wright by George Frederick Watts, 1850-1851, study for the Watts Gallery verion of the painting. National Portrait Gallery

Thomas Wright drawing

The original 1850 version of the painting, exhibited at the Royal Academy that year and later presented to the City of Manchester (a plan supported by Gaskell). From the Exhibition Catalog: "Painted as an expression of the artist's admiration and respect of the noble philanthropy of Thomas Wright of Manchester." Transferred from the Royal Manchester Institution in 1882.

Manchester version

Thomas Wright's gravestone (source

Thomas Wright's gravestone 


Blunt, Wilfred. "England's Michaelangelo": A Biography of George Frederic Watts, Om., R.A. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1975.

Hare, William Loftus. Watts (1817-1904). Full text at Project Gutenberg. [This appears to be a pamphlet in a series entitled Matsrepieces in Colour edited by T. Leman Hare. The Gutenberg text does not indicate place or date of publication.]

"Thomas Wright: The Prisoner's Friend." The ragged school union magazine, Publisher Partridge & Oakey, 1852

"Thomas Wright: The Good Samaritan." The Gaskell Society Newsletter, 1987.3 (15-25).


Associated Place(s)

Timeline of Events Associated with The Good Samaritan, G. F. Watts


  • George Frederick Watts

Image Date: 

19th century