Global Watts: Allegories for All (1880-1980)’, providing the first comprehensive assessment of the international importance and influence of British artist George Frederic Watts (1817-1904)
University of Surrey
Year of enrolment: 2017
National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) Studentship
Supervisor: Dr Constance Bantman
Insititution email: firstname.lastname@example.org
NPIF Student at University of Surrey and Watts Gallery
The art of G. F. Watts is unique in the history of British art in having such a global reach during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries; his allegories offered a visual language that seemed to unite humanity and transcend national borders. Key works, such as Hope, Mammon, The Minotaur, Love and Life, Love and Death, Time, Death & Judgement, existing in multiple versions and reproduced both as photographs and art-prints, had currency all over the world and their meanings changing across locales. This project covers the period c.1880-1980, charting the circulations and appropriations of Watts’s works over a century. The project will adopt a transnational and interdisciplinary approach to art and cultural history. The importance of this study lies in an assessment of how a global visual culture became possible through Watts's works. Key research questions will be: How were values of global significance seen to be embodied in these images? How does this restructure our ideas of the international and the insular in Art History (especially British Art history) of this period? What were the limitations (geographic, class-based, interpretative) of this global visual culture? Is this an example of the diffusionist reach of European colonialism, or on the contrary, the creative appropriation of British culture by others? The research will explore in depth the 'non-art' contexts for Watts, seeing the responses to reproductions and the political uses of his art as significant cultural history, rather than peripheral developments. Points of focus include Watts's imagery in relation to the European Symbolist movement in the 1890s, the Suffrage movement and the African-American Civil Rights Movement.