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Author: Hare, William Loftus
Title: Watts (1817-1904)
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Title: Watts (1817-1904)

Author: William Loftus Hare

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WATTS (1817-1904)

by

W. LOFTUS HARE

Illustrated with Eight Reproductions in Colour







[Illustration: PLATE I.--DEATH CROWNING INNOCENCE

(Frontispiece)

     A little child lying in the lap of the winged figure of Death.
     Death, ever to Watts a silent angel of pity, "takes charge of
     Innocence, placing it beyond the reach of evil." It was first
     exhibited at the Winter Exhibition of the New Gallery, 1896,
     and was given to the nation in 1897. It is now at the Tate
     Gallery.]




MASTERPIECES IN COLOUR

EDITED BY T. LEMAN HARE

"MASTERPIECES IN COLOUR" SERIES

ARTIST.              AUTHOR.
VELAZQUEZ.           S.L. BENSUSAN.
REYNOLDS.            S.L. BENSUSAN.
TURNER.              C. LEWIS HIND.
ROMNEY.              C. LEWIS HIND.
GREUZE.              ALYS EYRE MACKLIN.
BOTTICELLI.          HENRY B. BINNS.
ROSSETTI.            LUCIEN PISSARRO.
BELLINI.             GEORGE HAY.
FRA ANGELICO.        JAMES MASON.
REMBRANDT.           JOSEF ISRAELS.
LEIGHTON.            A. LYS BALDRY.
RAPHAEL.             PAUL G. KONODY.
HOLMAN HUNT.         MARY E. COLERIDGE.
TITIAN.              S.L. BENSUSAN.
MILLAIS.             A. LYS BALDRY.
CARLO DOLCI.         GEORGE HAY.
GAINSBOROUGH.        MAX ROTHSCHILD.
TINTORETTO.          S.L. BENSUSAN.
LUINI.               JAMES MASON.
FRANZ HALS.          EDGCUMBE STALEY.
VAN DYCK.            PERCY M. TURNER.
LEONARDO DA VINCI.   M.W. BROCKWELL.
RUBENS.              S.L. BENSUSAN.
WHISTLER.            T. MARTIN WOOD.
HOLBEIN.             S.L. BENSUSAN.
BURNE-JONES.         A. LYS BALDRY.
VIGEE LE BRUN.       C. HALDANE MACFALL.
CHARDIN.             PAUL G. KONODY.
FRAGONARD.           C. HALDANE MACFALL.
MEMLINC.             W.H.J. & J.C. WEALE.
CONSTABLE.           C. LEWIS HIND.
RAEBURN.             JAMES L. CAW.
JOHN S. SARGENT.     T. MARTIN WOOD.
LAWRENCE.            S.L. BENSUSAN.
DUERER.               H.E.A. FURST.
MILLET.              PERCY M. TURNER.
WATTEAU.             C. LEWIS HIND.
HOGARTH.             C. LEWIS HIND.
MURILLO.             S.L. BENSUSAN.
WATTS.               W. LOFTUS HARE.
INGRES.              A.J. FINBERG.

Others in Preparation.

The Publishers have to acknowledge the permission of Mrs.
Watts to reproduce the series of paintings here included.



[Illustration: IN SEMPITERNUM.]




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


Plate

I. Death crowning Innocence      Frontispiece
    At the Tate Gallery

II. The Minotaur
    At the Tate Gallery

III. Hope
    At the Tate Gallery

IV. Thomas Carlyle
    At the South Kensington Museum

V. Love and Life
    At the Tate Gallery

VI. Love Triumphant
    At the Tate Gallery

VII. The Good Samaritan
    At the Manchester Art Gallery

VIII. Prayer
    At the Manchester Art Gallery


[Illustration]




I

A BIOGRAPHICAL OUTLINE


In July of 1904 the eighty-seven mortal years of George Frederick Watts
came to an end. He had outlived all the contemporaries and acquaintances
of his youth; few, even among the now living, knew him in his middle
age; while to those of the present generation, who knew little of the
man though much of his work, he appeared as members of the Ionides
family, thus inaugurating the series of private and public portraits for
which he became so famous. The Watts of our day, however, the teacher
first and the painter afterwards, had not yet come on the scene. His
first aspiration towards monumental painting began in the year 1843,
when in a competition for the decoration of the Houses of Parliament he
gained a prize of L300 for his cartoon of "Caractacus led Captive
through the Streets of Rome." At this time, when history was claiming
pictorial art as her servant and expositor, young Watts carried off the
prize against the whole of his competitors. This company included the
well-known historical painter Haydon, who, from a sense of the
impossibility of battling against his financial difficulties, and from
the neglect, real or fancied, of the leading politicians, destroyed
himself by his own hand.

The L300 took the successful competitor to Italy, where for four years
he remained as a guest of Lord Holland. Glimpses of the Italy he gazed
upon and loved are preserved for us in a landscape of the hillside town
of Fiesole with blue sky and clouds, another of a castellated villa
and mountains near Florence, and a third of the "Carrara Mountains
near Pisa"; while of his portraiture of that day, "Lady Holland" and
"Lady Dorothy Nevill" are relics of the Italian visit.

[Illustration: PLATE II.--THE MINOTAUR

     In this terrible figure, half man, half bull, gazing over the
     sea from the battlement of a hill tower, we see the artist's
     representation of the greed and lust associated with modern
     civilisations. The picture was exhibited at the Winter
     Exhibition of the New Gallery, 1896, and formed part of the
     Watts Gift in 1897. It hangs in the Watts Room at the Tate
     Gallery.]

Italy, and particularly Florence, was perpetual fascination and
inspiration to Watts. There he imbibed the influences of Orcagna and
Titian--influences, indeed, which were clearly represented in the next
monumental painting which he attempted. It came about that Lord Holland
persuaded his guest to enter a fresh competition for the decoration of
the Parliament Houses, and Watts carried off the prize with his "Alfred
inciting the Saxons to resist the landing of the Danes." The colour and
movement of the great Italian masters, conspicuously absent from the
"Caractacus" cartoon, were to be seen in this new effort, where, as has
been said, the English king stands like a Raphaelesque archangel in the
midst of the design.

In 1848 Watts had attained, one might almost say, the position of
official historical painter to the State, a post coveted by the
unfortunate Haydon; and he received a commission to paint a fresco of
"St. George overcomes the Dragon," which was not completed till 1853.
In this year he contributed as an appendix to the Diary of Haydon--in
itself an exciting document, showing how wretched the life of an
official painter then might be--a note telling of the state of
historical and monumental painting in the 'forties, and of his own
attitude towards it; a few of his own words, written before the days of
the "poster," may be usefully quoted here:

     ON THE PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT OF ARTISTS

     Patriots and statesmen alike forget that the time will come
     when the want of great art in England will produce a gap sadly
     defacing the beauty of the whole national structure....

     Working, for example, as an historian to record England's
     battles, Haydon would, no doubt, have produced a series of
     mighty and instructive pictures....

     Why should not the Government of a mighty country undertake
     the decoration of all the public buildings, such as Town
     Halls, National Schools, and even Railway Stations....

     ... Or considering the walls as slates whereon the school-boy
     writes his figures, the great productions of other times might
     be reproduced, if but to be rubbed out when fine originals
     could be procured; for the expense would very little exceed
     that of whitewashing....

     If, for example, on some convenient wall the whole line of
     British sovereigns were painted--were monumental effigies
     well and correctly drawn, with date, length of reign,
     remarkable events written underneath, these worthy objects
     would be attained--intellectual exercise, decoration of space,
     and instruction to the public.

The year 1848 was a critical time for Watts; his first allegorical
picture, "Time and Oblivion," was painted, and, in the year following,
"Life's Illusions" appeared on the walls of the famous Academy which
contained the first works of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Watts was
not of the party, though he might have been had he desired; he preferred
independence.

Watts' personal life was at this time pervaded by the influence of Lord
and Lady Holland, who, having returned from Florence to London, had him
as a constant visitor to Holland House. In 1850 he went to live at The
Dower House, an old building in the fields of Kensington. There, as a
guest of the Prinsep family, he set up as a portrait painter. His host
and family connections were some of the first to sit for him; and he
soon gained fame in this class of work.

There was a temporary interruption in 1856, when a journey to the East,
in company with Sir Charles Newton, for the purpose of opening the
buried Temple of Mausolus at Halicarnassus, gave Watts further insight
into the old Greek world; and, one cannot but think, stimulated his
efforts, later so successful, in depicting for us so many incidents in
classical lore. We have, in a view of a mountainous coast called "Asia
Minor," and another, "The Isle of Cos," two charming pictorial records
of this important expedition. The next six years of the artist's life
were spent as a portrait painter; not, indeed, if one may say so, as a
professional who would paint any one's portrait, but as a friend, who
loved to devote himself to his friends.

In pursuance of his principles touching monumental work, Watts engaged
himself over a period of five years on the greatest and the last of his
civic paintings--namely, the "Justice; a Hemicycle of Lawgivers," to
which I shall later refer.

Watts was a man who seems to have enjoyed in a singular degree the great
privilege of friendship, which while it has its side of attachment, has
also its side of detachment. Even in his youthful days he never "settled
down," but was a visitor and guest rather than an attached scholar and
student at the schools and studies. It is told of him that when just
about to leave Florence, after a short visit, he casually presented a
letter of introduction to Lord Holland, which immediately led to a four
years' stay there, and this friendship lasted for many years after the
ambassador's return to England. Other groups of friends, represented by
the Ionides, the Prinseps, the Seniors, and the Russell Barringtons,
seemed to have possessed him as their special treasure, in whose
friendship he passed a great part of his life. Two great men, the
titular chiefs of poetry and painting, were much impressed by him, and
drew from him great admiration--Tennyson and Leighton; from the latter
he learned much; in the sphere of music, of which Watts was passionately
fond, there stands out Joachim the violinist.

Watts used to recall, as the happiest time in his life, his youthful
days as a choral singer; and he always regretted that he had not become
a musician. Besides being fond of singing he declared that he constantly
heard (or felt) mystic music--symphonies, songs, and chorales. Only
once did he receive a _vision_ of a picture--idea, composition and
colours--that was "Time, Death, and Judgment." Music, after all, is
nearer to the soul of the intuitive man than any of the arts, and Watts
felt this deeply. He also had considerable dramatic talent.

In 1864 some friends found for Watts a bride in the person of Miss Ellen
Terry. The painter and the youthful actress were married in Kensington
in February of that year, and Watts took over Little Holland House. The
marriage, however, was irksome, both to the middle-aged painter and the
vivacious child of sixteen, whose words, taken from her autobiography,
are the best comment we possess on this incident:

     "Many inaccurate stories have been told of my brief married
     life, and I have never contradicted them--they were so
     manifestly absurd. Those who can imagine the surroundings into
     which I, a raw girl, undeveloped in all except my training as
     an actress, was thrown, can imagine the situation.... I
     wondered at the new life and worshipped it because of its
     beauty. When it suddenly came to an end I was thunderstruck;
     and refused at first to consent to the separation which was
     arranged for me in much the same way as my marriage had
     been.... There were no vulgar accusations on either side, and
     the words I read in the deed of separation, 'incompatibility
     of temper,' more than covered the ground. Truer still would
     have been 'incompatibility of _occupation_,' and the
     interference of well-meaning friends.

     "'The marriage was not a happy one,' they will probably say
     after my death, and I forestall them by saying that it was in
     many ways very happy indeed. What bitterness there was effaced
     itself in a very remarkable way." (_The Story of My Life_,
     1908.)

In 1867, at the age of fifty, without his application or knowledge,
Watts was made an Associate, and in the following year a full Member, of
the Royal Academy. Younger men had preceded him in this honour, but
doubtless Watts' modesty and independence secured for him a certain
amount of official neglect. The old studio in Melbury Road, Kensington,
was pulled down in 1868, and a new house was built suited to the painter
who had chosen for himself a hermit life. The house was built in such a
way as would avoid the possibility of entertaining guests, and was
entirely dedicated to work. Watts continued his series of official
portraits, and many of the most beautiful mythical paintings followed
this change. Five years later, Watts was found at Freshwater in the Isle
of Wight, and in 1876 he secured what he had so long needed, the
sympathetic help and co-operation in his personal and artistic aims, in
Mr. and Mrs. Russell Barrington, his neighbours.

In 1877 Watts decided, in conformity with his views on patriotic art, to
give his pictures to the nation, and there followed shortly after, in
1881 and 1882, exhibitions of his works in Whitechapel and the Grosvenor
Gallery. A leaflet entitled "What should a picture say?" issued with the
approval of Watts, in connection with the Whitechapel Exhibition, has a
characteristic answer to the question put to him.

     "Roughly speaking, a picture must be regarded in the same
     light as written words. It must speak to the beholder and tell
     him something.... If a picture is a representation only, then
     regard it from that point of view only. If it treats of a
     historical event, consider whether it fairly tells its tale.
     Then there is another class of picture, that whose purpose is
     to convey suggestion and idea. You are not to look at that
     picture as an actual representation of facts, for it comes
     under the same category of dream visions, aspirations, and we
     have nothing very distinct except the sentiment. If the
     painting is bad--the writing, the language of art, it is a
     pity. The picture is then not so good as it should be, but the
     thought is there, and the thought is what the artist wanted to
     express, and it is or should be impressed on the spectator."

In 1886 his pictures were exhibited in New York, where they created a
great sensation; but incidents connected with the exhibition, and
criticisms upon it, caused the artist much nervous distress.

[Illustration: PLATE III.--HOPE

(At the Tate Gallery)

     At the first glance it is rather strange that such a picture
     should bear such a title, but the imagery is perfectly true.
     The heavens are illuminated by a solitary star, and Hope bends
     her ear to catch the music from the last remaining string of
     her almost shattered lyre. The picture was painted in 1885 and
     given to the nation in 1897. A very fine duplicate is in the
     possession of Mrs. Rushton.]

It was a peculiar difficulty of his nature which led him to insist, on
the occasions of the London and provincial exhibitions of his pictures,
that the borrowers were to make all arrangements with his frame-maker,
that he should not be called upon to act in any way, and that no
personal reference should be introduced. Watts always considered himself
a private person; he disliked public functions and fled from them if
there were any attempt to draw attention to him. His habits of work were
consistent with these unusual traits. At sunrise he was at his easel.
During the hot months of summer he was hard at work in his London
studio, leaving for the country only for a few weeks during foggy
weather.

At the age of sixty-nine Watts married Miss Mary Fraser-Tytler, with
whom he journeyed to Egypt, painting there a study of the "Sphinx," one
of the cleverest of his landscapes. Three years after his return, he
settled at Limnerslease, Compton, in Surrey, where he took great
interest in the attempt to revive industrial art among the rural
population.

Twice, in 1885 and 1894, the artist refused, for private reasons, the
baronetcy that other artists had accepted. He lived henceforth and died
the untitled patriot and artist, George Frederick Watts.




II

THE MAN AND THE MESSENGER


Having given in the preceding pages the briefest possible outline of the
life of Watts as a man amongst men, we are now able to come to closer
quarters. He was essentially a messenger--a teacher, delivering to the
world, in such a manner that his genius and temperament made possible,
ideas which had found their place in his mind. He would have been the
first to admit that without these ideas he would be less than nothing.

If it were possible to bring together all the external acts of the
painter's life, his journeyings to and fro, his making and his losing
friends, we should have insufficient data to enable us to understand
Watts' message; his great ambitions, his constant failures, his intimate
experiences, his reflections and determinations--known to none but
himself--surely these, the internal life of Watts, are the real sources
of his message? True, he was in the midst of the nineteenth century,
breathing its atmosphere, familiar with the ideals of its great men,
doubting, questioning, and hoping with the rest. To him, as to many a
contemporary stoic, the world was in a certain sense an alien ground,
and mortal life was to be stoically endured and made the best of. It is
impossible to believe, however, that this inspiring and prophetic
painter reproduced and handed on merely that which his time and society
gave him. His day and his associates truly gave him much; the past and
his heredity made their contributions; but we must believe that the
purest gold was fired in the crucible of his inner experience, his joys
and his sufferings. In him was accomplished that great discovery which
the philosophers have called Pessimism; he not only saw in other men (as
depicted in his memorable canvas of 1849), but he experienced in himself
the transitory life's illusions. To Watts, the serious man of fifty
years, Love and Death, Faith and Hope, Aspiration, Suffering, and
Remorse, were not, as to the eighteenth-century rhymester, merely Greek
ladies draped in flowing raiment; to him they were realities, intensely
focussed in himself. Watts was giving of himself, of his knowledge and
observation of what Love is and does, and how Death appears so
variously; and who but a man who knew the melancholy of despair could
paint that picture "Hope"?

Immediately after the central crisis of his personal life appeared the
canvas entitled "Fata Morgana," illustrative of a knight in vain pursuit
of a phantom maiden; and before long there was from his brush the
pictured story of a lost love, "Orpheus and Eurydice," one of the
saddest of all myths, but, one feels, no old myth to him.

By a more careful analysis of the artist's work we hope to learn the
teaching Watts set himself to give, and to ascertain the means that he
adopted; but one point needs to be made clear at this stage, namely,
that although Watts was a great teacher, yet he was not a revolutionary.
The ideals he held up were not new or strange, but old, well-tried, one
might almost say conventional. They represent the ideals which, in the
friction and turmoil of ages, have emerged as definite, clear, final.
They are not disputed or dubious notions, but accepted truisms forgotten
and neglected, waiting for the day when men shall live by them.

Furthermore, Watts was not in any sense a mystic--neither personally or
as an artist. "The Dweller in the Innermost" is not the transcendental
self known to a few rare souls, but is merely conscience, known to all.
The biblical paintings have no secret meaning assigned to them. The
inhabitants of Eden, the hero of the Deluge, the Hebrew patriarchs,
Samson and Satan--all these are the familiar figures of the
evangelical's Bible. "Eve Repentant" is the woman Eve, the mother of the
race; "Jacob and Esau" are the brothers come to reconciliation; "Jonah"
is the prophet denouncing the Nineveh of his day and the Babylon of
this. The teaching--and there is teaching in every one of them--is plain
and ethical. So also, with the Greek myths; they teach plainly--they
hold no esoteric interpretations. Watts is no Neo-Platonist weaving
mystical doctrines from the ancient hero tales; he is rather a stoic, a
moralist, a teacher of earthly things.

But we must be careful to guard against the impression of Watts as a
lofty philosopher consciously issuing proclamations by means of his art.
Really he was not aware of being a philosopher at all; he was simply an
artist, an exquisitely delicate and sensitive medium, who, when once
before his canvas, suddenly filled with his idea, was compelled to say
his word. If there be any synthesis about his finished work--and no one
can deny this--it was not because Watts gave days and nights and years
to "thinking things out." His paintings are, as he used to call them,
"anthems," brought forth by the intuitive man, the musician. This was
the fundamental Watts. Whatever unity there be, is due rather to unity
of inspiration than to strength or definiteness of character and
accomplishment, and this was sometimes referred to by Watts as a golden
thread passing through his life--a thread of good intention--which he
felt would guide him through the labyrinth of distractions, mistakes,
irritations, ill health, and failures.

One of the striking incidents in the life of Watts was his offer to
decorate Euston Railway Station with frescoes entitled "The Progress of
Cosmos." "Chaos" we have in the Tate Gallery, full of suggestiveness and
interest. We see a deep blue sky above the distant mountains, gloriously
calm and everlasting; in the middle distance to the left is a nebulous
haze of light, while in the foreground the rocks are bursting open and
the flames rush through. Figures of men, possessed by the energy and
agony of creation, are seen wrestling with the elements of fire and
earth. One of these figures, having done his work, floats away from the
glow of the fire across the transparent water, while others of his
creative family have quite passed the struggling stage of movement and
are reclining permanent and gigantic to the right of the picture. The
same idea is repeated in the chain of draped women who are emerging from
the watery deep; at first they are swept along in isolation, then they
fly in closer company, next they dance and finally walk in orderly
procession. But Chaos, for all this, is a unity; of all material forms
it is the most ancient form; Cosmos however is the long-drawn tale
beginning with the day when "The Spirit of God brooded on the face of
the waters." Cosmos might have been Watts' synthetic pictorial
philosophy; Herbert Spencer with his pen, and he with his brush, as it
were, should labour side by side. But this was not to be; the Directors
of the North-Western Railway declined the artist's generous offer, and
he had to get his "Cosmos" painted by degrees. On the whole, perhaps, we
should be thankful that the railway company liberated Watts from this
self-imposed task. We remember that Dante in his exile set out to write
"Il Convivio," a Banquet of so many courses that one might tremble at
the prospect of sitting down to it; the four treatises we have are
interesting, though dry as dust; but if Dante had finished his Banquet,
he might never have had time for his "Divine Comedy"; so perhaps, after
all, we shall be well content to be without Watts' "Cosmos," remembering
what we have gained thereby. Besides, the continuous and spontaneous
self-revelation of an artist or a poet is sometimes truer than a rigid
predetermined plan.

[Illustration: PLATE IV.--THOMAS CARLYLE

(At the South Kensington Museum)

     This canvas was painted in 1868, and is the earlier of the two
     portraits of the famous historian painted by Watts. It formed
     part of the Foster Bequest. It is interesting to compare this
     with the painting in the National Portrait Gallery.]

A few words from the pen of the artist, appearing by way of preface to a
book, "A Plain Handicraft," may here be quoted to indicate the strong
views Watts took on the "Condition-of-England Question." His interest in
art was not centred in painting, or sculpture, or himself, or his fellow
artists. He believed in the sacred mission of art as applied to profane
things. We see how closely he adheres to the point of view made so
famous by Ruskin. Both Watts and Ruskin, one feels, belong rather to the
days of Pericles, when everything was best in the state because the
citizens gave themselves up to it and to each other. Writing of the
necessity and utility of reviving Plain Handicrafts among the mass of
the people, the painter of "Mammon" says:

     "... When the object is to vitalise and develop faculties--the
     especial inheritance of the human race, but strangely dormant
     in our time among the largest section of the community--the
     claim becomes one that cannot be ignored. Looking at the
     subject from a point of view commanding a wide horizon, it
     seems to be nothing less than a social demand, rising into a
     religious duty, to make every endeavour in the direction of
     supplying all possible compensating consolation for the
     routine of daily work, become so mechanical and dreary. When
     home is without charm, and country without attaching bonds,
     the existence of a nation is rudely shaken; dull discontent
     leading to sullen discontent, may readily become active
     animosity. There will not be men interested in the maintenance
     of law and order, who feel that law and order bring them no
     perceptible formal advantage. In the race for wealth, it has
     been forgotten that wealth alone can offer neither dignity nor
     permanent safety; no dignity, if the man of the population is
     degraded by dull toil and disgraceful competition; no safety,
     if large numbers drag on a discontented existence, while the
     more active and intelligent leave our shores.

     "Whether or not our material wealth is to be increased or
     diminished, it is certain that a more general well-being and
     contentment must be striven for. A happy nation will be a
     wealthy nation, wealthy in the best sense, in the assurance
     that its children can be depended upon in case of need, wealth
     above the fortune of war, and safety above the reach of
     fortune. The rush of interest in the direction of what are
     understood as worldly advantages, has trampled out the sense
     of pleasure in the beautiful, and the need of its presence as
     an element essential to the satisfaction of daily life, which
     must have been unconsciously felt in ages less absorbed in
     acquiring wealth for itself alone. In olden times our art
     congresses would have been as needless as congresses to
     impress on the general mind the advantages of money-making
     would be in these." (_Plain Handicraft_, 1892.)

In G.F. Watts, however, we have an instance of a man who, although he
sees and is attracted by abstract principles of ethics, does not
perceive the manner of their final application; he is not really
scientific. It might be thought that the painter of "Greed and Toil,"
"The Sempstress," "Mammon," "The Dweller of the Innermost," and "Love
Triumphant," would be able to indicate, in that sphere of social
activity called "practical politics," how these principles could find
their expression and realisation. It is interesting, however, to know,
and to have it authoritatively from his own pen, that Watts at least
could not discern either the time or the application of these ethical
principles to the affairs of the great world; for in 1901 there appeared
from his hand a quasi-philosophical defence of the South African War,
entitled "Our Race as Pioneers." He said:

     "Inevitable social and political measures claim obedience,
     which may be at variance with the spiritual and ethical
     conscience; but there comes in the question of necessity,
     apparent laws that contest with pure right and wrong; ... and
     as we must live, nothing remains but commerce; and commerce
     cannot be carried on without competition, and pushing the
     limits of our interests. The result of competition can only be
     conflict--war, unless some other outlet can be found. Commerce
     will not supply this; its very activity, which is its health
     and life, will produce the ambition, envy, and jarring
     interests that will be fatal to peace.... The principle,
     _Movement_, must have its outlet, its safety valve. This has
     always been war.... The goddess Trade, the modern Pandora, has
     in her box all the evils that afflict mankind.... How can
     Commerce, as understood by the principles of trade, abolish
     war?"

     "The simple principles of right and wrong are easily
     defined," and perhaps easily painted; "but the complexity of
     human affairs and legitimate interests, conducing to the
     activity demanded by the great law, _Movement_, makes some
     elasticity necessary, even where there is the most honest
     desire to be just."

Thus, from his own words, we see how the painter transcends the
politician; he is a stimulator, he gives hints, not instructions; he is
commanding, imperative, but he does not show how, nor stay to devise
ways and means. He even perceives, as he thinks, that though the
commands of his pictures, "Faith," "Conscience," and "Love Triumphant,"
be given, yet they cannot be obeyed fully because of "Evolution" and
"Destiny," or as he calls it "Movement."

To his intimate friends Watts, who was so introspective, often
complained of "the duality of my nature." In the midst of affairs,
financial or worldly, on questions of criticism, personal conduct and
the like, the great artist was variable and uncertain. Though humble and
self-deprecatory to an extreme degree, he made mistakes from which he
could escape only with great difficulty; and he suffered much from
depression and melancholy. This man, however, never appears in the
pictures; when once in his studio, alone facing his canvas, Watts is
final, absolute, an undisturbed and undistracted unity, conscious of
that overwhelming "rightness" known to a Hebrew prophet. Whatever Time
or Death may have in store for him or any man, there riding swiftly
above them is Judgment the Absolute One; whatever theories may be spun
from the perplexed mind of the magazine writer about Expansion and
Necessity, there sits the terrible "Mammon" pilloried for all time.
Indeed, he said his pictures were "for all time"; they were from the
mind and hand of the seer, who, rising from his personality, transcended
it; and as the personality of dual nature gradually fades away into the
forgotten past, the Messenger emerges ever more and more clearly,
leaving his graphic testimonies spread out upon a hundred canvases. It
might be said as a final estimate that the value and sincerity of Watts'
work becomes intensified a hundred-fold when we remember that its
grandeur and dignity, its unity and its calm, was the work of a man who
seldom, if ever, attained internal peace. Like some who speak wiser than
they know, so Watts gave himself as an instrument to inspirations of
which he was not able, through adverse circumstances, to make full use.
Thus was the Man divided from the Messenger.

[Illustration: PLATE V.--LOVE AND LIFE

(At the Tate Gallery)

     Love, strong in his immortal youth, leads Life, a slight
     female figure, along the steep uphill path; with his broad
     wings he shelters her, that the winds of heaven may not visit
     her too roughly. Violets spring where Love has trod, and as
     they ascend to the mountain top the air becomes more and more
     golden. The implication is that, without the aid of Divine
     Love, fragile Human Life could not have power to ascend the
     steep path upward. First exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in
     1885. Companion picture to "Love and Death," and "Love
     Triumphant."]




III

A REVIEW OF WATTS' WORK


Failing the "Progress of the Cosmos," we have from the mind and brush of
Watts a great number of paintings, which may be grouped according to
their character. Such divisions must not be regarded as rigid or
official, for often enough a picture may belong to several groups at the
same time. For the purpose of our survey, however, we divide them as
follows:

     1. Monumental or Historical Paintings and Frescoes.
     2. Humanitarian or Social Paintings.
     3. Portraits, private and public.
     4. Biblical Paintings.
     5. Mythical Paintings.
     6. "Pessimistic" Paintings.
     7. The Great Realities.
     8. The Love Series.
     9. The Death Series.
     10. Landscapes.
     11. Unclassified Paintings.
     12. Paintings of Warriors.

"Caractacus" was the first of the monumental paintings; by them Watts
appears as a citizen and a patriot, whose insular enthusiasm extends
backward to the time when the British chief Caractacus fought and was
subdued by the Romans. He enters also into the spirit of the resistance
offered to the Danes by King Alfred. George and the Dragon are included
by him in the historical though mythical events of our race. Undoubtedly
the most remarkable of Watts' monumental paintings is the fresco
entitled "Justice; a Hemicycle of Lawgivers," painted for the Benchers'
Hall in Lincoln's Inn. It is 45 x 40 feet. Here Watts, taking the
conventional and theoretical attitude, identifies law-making with
justice, and in his fresco we see thirty-three figures, representing
Moses, Zoroaster, Pythagoras, Confucius, Lycurgus and his fellow-Greeks,
Numa Pompilius and other Romans. Here figures also Justinian, the maker
of the great Code; Mahomet, King Alfred, and even Attila the Hun. The
painting represents the close of this phase of Watts' work; he received
a gift of L500 and a gold cup in memory of its achievement. In England,
at least, no one has ever attempted or accomplished anything in fresco
of so great dimensions. Watts' monumental genius drove him to sculpture
on the grand scale also. "Hugh Lupus" for the Duke of Westminster, and
"Physical Energy," upon which he laboured at intervals during
twenty-five years of his life, are his great triumphs in this direction.
It is not the first time that an artist deficient in health and strength
has made physical energy into a demigod. Men often, perhaps always,
idealise what they have not. It was the wish of the sculptor to place a
cast of "Physical Energy" on the grave of Cecil Rhodes on the Matoppo
Hills in South Africa, indicating how Watts found it possible (by
idealising what he wished to idealise), to include within the scope and
patronage of his art, the activities, aims, and interests of modern
Colonial Enterprise.

_Humanitarian Paintings_.--The earliest of these, "The Wounded Heron,"
asks our pity for the injured bird, and forbids us to join in the
enthusiasm of the huntsman who hurries for his suffering prize. The same
thought is expressed in the beautiful "Shuddering Angel," who is
covering his face with his hands at the sight of the mangled plumage
scattered on the altar of fashion. In the large canvases, "A Patient
Life of Unrequited Toil," and "Midday Rest," we have paintings of
horses, both of them designed to teach us consideration for the "friend
of man." "The Sempstress" sings us Tom Hood's "Song of the Shirt."

"The Good Samaritan" (see Plate VII.) properly belongs to this series.
It was presented by the artist to the citizens of Manchester, as an
expression of his admiration of Thomas Wright, the prison
philanthropist, whose work was at that time (1852) creating a sensation
in the north of England. If we compare this painting with other Biblical
subjects executed at a later date, we see how much Watts' work has
gained since then. The almost smooth texture and the dark shadows of the
Manchester picture have given way to ruggedness and transparency. Still,
"The Good Samaritan" is simple and excellent in purpose and composition.

A little known painting entitled "Cruel Vengeance," seems to be a
forecast of "Mammon"; a creature with human form and vulture's head
presses under his hand a figure like the maiden whose head rests on
Mammon's knee. In "Greed and Labour" the seer's eye pierces through the
relations between the worker and his master; Labour is a fine strong
figure loaded with the implements of his toil, with no feeling of
subjection in his manly face; on the other hand, the miser creeping
behind him, clutching the money bags, represents that Greed who, as
Mammon, is seen sitting on his throne of death. "Mammon" is, however,
the greatest of the three, containing in itself the ideas and forms of
the other two. It is a terrible picture of the god to whom many bow the
knee--"dedicated to his worshippers." His leaden face shows a
consciousness of power, but not happiness arising from power; his dull
eyes see nothing, though his mind's eye sees one thing clearly--the
money bags on his lap. The two frail creatures of youth and maiden,
"types of humanity" as Watts said, are crushed by his heavy limbs, while
behind a fire burns continuously, perhaps also within his massive
breast.

_Portraits_.--In portraiture, as in other forms of art, Watts had
distinct and peculiar views. He gradually came to the opinion, which he
adopted as his first rule in portraiture, that it was his duty, not
merely to copy the external features of the sitter, but to give what
might be called an intellectual copy. He declared it to be possible and
necessary for the sitter and painter to attain a unity of feeling and a
sympathy, by which he (the painter) was inspired. Watts' earlier
portraits, while being far from characterless, are not instances of the
application of this principle. There is in them a slight tendency to
eighteenth-century ideal portraiture, which so often took the sitter
(and the observer too) back to times and attitudes, backgrounds and
thunderstorms, that never were and never will be.

Watts, however, was slightly influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite school. He
might, had he wished, have been their portrait painter--and indeed, the
picture of the comely Mrs. Hughes, a kind, motherly creature, with a
background of distant fields, minutely painted, is quite on the lines of
Pre-Raphaelite realism.

[Illustration: PLATE VI.--LOVE TRIUMPHANT

(At the Tate Gallery)

     Time and Death having travelled together through the ages,
     have run their course and are at length overthrown. Love alone
     arises on immortal wings, triumphantly, with outspread arms to
     the eternal skies.

     Given to the nation in 1900.]

Somewhat of the same character is the portrait of Mrs. Nassau Senior,
who, with one knee on a sofa, is shown tending flowers, her rippling
golden hair falling over her shoulders. A full-length portrait of Miss
Mary Kirkpatrick Brunton, dated 1842, also belongs to the old style.
Watts had a passion for human loveliness, and in his day some of the
great beauties sat to him. The "Jersey Lily" (Mrs. Langtry) with her
simple headdress and downcast eye, appeared at the Academy of 1879.
"Miss Rachel Gurney" is a wonderful portrait of a flaming soul
imprisoned in a graceful form and graceless dress. Miss Gurney is shown
standing, turning slightly to the right with the head again turned over
the right shoulder, while the whole effect of energy seems to be
concentrated in the flashing eyes. Watts was able to interpret equally
well personalities of a very different character, and perhaps the canvas
representing Miss Edith Villiers is one of the most successful of his
spiritual portraits. Miss Dorothy Dene, whose complexion Watts was one
of the first to transfer to canvas, Miss Mary Anderson, and Miss Dorothy
Maccallum, were all triumphantly depicted. He will be known, however, as
the citizen portrait-painter of the nineteenth century, who preserved
for us not merely the form, but the spirit of some of the greatest men
of his day. Lord Tennyson sat three times. In 1859 the poet was shown in
the prime of life, his hair and beard ruffled, his look determined. In
1864 we had another canvas--"the moonlight portrait"; the face is
that of Merlin, meditative, thoughtful. As you look at it the features
stand out with great clearness, the distance of the laurels behind his
head can be estimated almost precisely, while seen through them is the
gleam of the moon upon the distant water. The 1890 portrait, in
scholastic robes, with grizzled beard, and hair diminished, is Tennyson
the mystic, and reminds us of his "Ancient Sage"--

        "... for more than once when I
    Sat all alone, revolving in myself
    The word that is the symbol of myself,
    The Mortal limit of the self was loosed
    And passed into the Nameless, as a cloud
    Melts into heaven."

The portrait of John L. Motley, the American Minister to England in
1869, and author of "The Rise of the Dutch Republic," is one of the most
successful paintings of handsome men; Watts here depicts perfectly the
"spiritual body" of strength, purity, and appeal; the eyes are deepest
blue, and the hair the richest brown. In this case the artist has, as he
was so prone, fallen into symbolism even in portraiture, for we can
trace in the background a faint picture of an old-time fighting ship.

Another classic portrait, so different to that by Whistler, is of Thomas
Carlyle. The sage of Chelsea sits ruffled and untidy, with his hands
resting on the head of a stick, and his features full of power. He seems
protesting against the few hours' idleness, and anxious to get back to
the strenuous life. The sitter was good enough to say that the portrait
was of "a mad labourer"--not an unfair criticism of a very good
portrait.

_The Biblical Paintings_ are, as before said, in partial fulfilment of
the frustrated scheme of "Cosmos." "Eve Repentant," in an attitude so
typical of grief, is perhaps the most beautiful; it is one of a trilogy,
the others being "She shall be called Woman," and "Eve Tempted." It is
singular that in these three canvases the painter avoids the attempt to
draw the face of the mother of the race. In the first the face is
upturned, covered in shadow; in the second it is hid from view by the
leaves of the forbidden tree, while in the third Eve turns her back and
hides her weeping face with her arms. This habit of Watts to obscure the
face is observed in "The Shuddering Angel," Judgment in "Time, Death,
and Judgment," in "Love and Death," "Sic Transit," "Great Possessions,"
and some others. Often indeed a picture speaks as much of what is not
seen as of what is seen.

Incidents from the Gospels are represented by "The Prodigal," where the
outcast is seen crouching on the ground, his face fixed on vacuity,
almost in the act of coming to himself. "For he had Great Possessions,"
is, however, the greatest and simplest of all. There the young man who
went away sorrowful with bowed head, scarcely knowing what he has lost,
is used by Watts as one of his most powerful criticisms of modern life.
Although the incident is a definite isolated one, yet the costume,
figure, chain of office, and jewelled fingers, clutching and releasing,
are of no time or land in particular.

It is not a little remarkable that Watts, who had breathed so deeply the
air of Italy, and had almost lived in company of Titian and Raphael,
should never have attempted the figure of Christ or His apostles. This
was, however, not without reason. His pictures were not only "for all
time," but apart from time altogether. His only specific reference to
Christianity is his beautiful canvas, "The Spirit of Christianity," in
which he rebuked the Churches for their dissensions. A parental figure
floats upon a cloud while four children nestle at her feet. The earth
below is shrouded in darkness and gloom, despite the steeple tower
raising its head above a distant village. The rebuke was immediately
stimulated by the refusal of a certain church to employ Watts when the
officials found he was not of their faith. In this picture Watts
approached nearest to the Italian Madonnas both in form and colour.

_The Mythical Paintings_ are, in the main, earlier than the Biblical
series, but even here the same note of teaching is struck, and our human
sympathies are drawn out towards the figure depicted. In one, "Echo"
comes to find her lover transformed into a flower; in another, "Psyche,"
through disobedience, has lost her love. She gazes regretfully at a
feather fallen from Cupid's wing; it is a pink feather, such as might be
taken from the plumage of the little Lord of Love who vainly opposes
Death in his approach to the beloved one. In "Psyche," Watts has made
the pale body expressive of abject loss; there is no physical effort,
except in the well-expanded feet, and no other thought but lost love.

The legend of "Diana and Endymion" was painted three times--"good,
better, best." A shepherd loved the Moon, who in his sleep descends from
heaven to embrace him. The canvas of 1903 must be regarded as the final
success--the sleeping figure is more asleep, his vision more dreamlike
and diaphanous. "Orpheus and Eurydice" (painted three times) is perhaps
the greatest of his classical pictures. It is one of the few
compositions that were considered by its author as "finished." Here
again the lover through disobedience loses his love; the falling figure
of Eurydice is one of the most beautiful and realistic of all the series
of Watts' nudes, and the agony of loss, the energy of struggle, are
magnificently drawn in the figure of Orpheus. Looking at the canvas, one
recalls the lines of the old Platonic poet-philosopher Boethius:

    "At length the shadowy king,
    His sorrows pitying,
    'He hath prevailed!' cried;
    'We give him back his bride!
    To him she shall belong,
    As guerdon of his song.
    One sole condition yet
    Upon the boon is set;
    Let him not turn his eyes
    To view his hard-won prize,
    Till they securely pass
    The gates of Hell.' Alas!
    What law can lovers move?
    A higher law is love!
    For Orpheus--woe is me!--
    On his Eurydice--
    Day's threshold all but won--
    Looked, lost, and was undone!"

In "The Minotaur," that terrible creature, half man, half bull, crushing
with his hideous claw the body of a bird, stands ever waiting to consume
by his cruel lust the convoy of beauteous forms coming unseen and
unwilling over the sea to him. It is an old myth, but Watts intended it
for a modern message. The picture was painted by him in the heat of
indignation in three hours.

A small but very important group of paintings, which I call "The
Pessimistic Series," begins with "Life's Illusions," painted in 1849.
"It is," says Watts, "an allegorical design typifying the march of human
life." Fair visions of Beauty, the abstract embodiments of divers forms
of Hope and Ambition, hover high in the air above the gulf which stands
as the goal of all men's lives. At their feet lie the shattered symbols
of human greatness and power, and upon the narrow space of earth that
overhangs the deep abyss are figured the brighter forms of illusions
that endure through every changing fashion of the world. A knight in
armour pricks on his horse in quick pursuit of the rainbow-tinted bubble
of glory; on his right are two lovers; on his left an aged student still
pores over his work by the last rays of the dying sun; while in the
shadow of the group may be seen the form of a little child chasing a
butterfly.

This picture has the merit, along with "Fata Morgana," of combining the
teaching element with one of the finest representations of woman's form
that came from Watts' brush. He was one of those who vigorously defended
the painting of the nude. These are some of his words:

     "One of the great missions of art--the greatest indeed--is to
     serve the same grand and noble end as poetry by holding in
     check that natural and ever-increasing tendency to hypocrisy
     which is consequent upon and constantly nurtured by
     civilisation. My aim is now, and will be to the end, not so
     much to paint pictures which are delightful to the eye, but
     pictures which will go to the intelligence and the
     imagination, and kindle there what is good and noble, and
     which will appeal to the heart. And in doing this I am forced
     to paint the nude."

"Fata Morgana" is a picture of Fortune or Opportunity pursued and lost
by an ardent horseman. It was painted twice, first in the Italian style,
and again in what must be called Watts' own style--much the finer
effort. This picture shows us what, in the artist's view, man in this
mortal life desires, pursues, and mostly loses. Fortune has a lock of
hair on her forehead by which alone she may be captured, and as she
glides mockingly along, she leads her pursuers across rock, stream,
dale, desert, and meadow typical of life. The pursuit of the elusive is
a favourite theme with Watts, and is set forth by the picture
"Mischief." Here a fine young man is battling for his liberty against an
airy spirit representing Folly or Mischief. Humanity bends his neck
beneath the enchanter's yoke--a wreath of flowers thrown round his
neck--and is led an unwilling captive; as he follows the roses turn to
briars about his muscular limbs, and at every step the tangle becomes
denser, while one by one the arrows drop from his hand. The thought of
"Life's Illusions" and "Fata Morgana" is again set forth in "Sic Transit
Gloria Mundi," where we see the body of a king whose crown, and all that
represents to him the glory of the world, is left at death. It is not,
however, in Watts' conception essential glory that passes away, but the
_Glory of the World_. Upon the dark curtain that hangs behind the
shrouded figure are words that represent his final wisdom, "What I
spent, I had; what I saved, I lost; what I gave, I have."

[Illustration: PLATE VII.--THE GOOD SAMARITAN

(At the Manchester Art Gallery)

     This is an early picture, painted in the year 1852 and
     presented to the city of Manchester by the artist in honour of
     the prison philanthropist, a native of that city.]

These I call "Pessimistic paintings," because they represent the true
discovery ever waiting to be made by man, that the sum total of all that
can be gained in man's external life--wealth, fame, strength, and
power--that these inevitably pass from him. To know this, to see it
clearly, to accept it, is the happiness of the pessimist, who
thenceforward fixes his hope and bends his energies to the realisation
of other and higher goods. In this he becomes an optimist, for this is
the pursuit, as Watts never ceases to teach, in which man can and does
attain his goal. Thus our prophet-painter, having seen and known and
felt all this, having tested it in the personal and intimate life,
brings to a triumphant close his great series, where positive rather
than negative teaching is given.

_The Great Realities_.--We have seen in "Chaos" primordial matter; we
have now from Watts' brush the origin of things on the metaphysical
side. In "The All-pervading," there sits the Spirit of the Universe,
holding in her lap the globe of the systems, the representation of the
last conclusions of philosophy. This mysterious picture is very low in
tone, conforming to Watts' rule to make the colouring suit the subject.
Here there is nothing hard or defined; the spirit of the universe is
merely suggested or hinted at, his great wings enclose all. The
elliptical form of this composition is seen again in "Death Crowning
Innocence" and "The Dweller in the Innermost," and the same expressive
indefiniteness and lowness of the colour tones. In the latter effort we
have the figure of Conscience, winged, dumb-faced and pensive, seated
within a glow of light. On her forehead is the shining star, and in her
lap the arrows which pierce through all disguises, and a trumpet that
proclaims peace to the world. Here, therefore, is the greatest reality
from the psychological side. We have also cosmical paintings
representing "Evolution," "Progress," the "Slumber of the Ages," and
"Destiny," all of them asking and answering; not indeed finally and
dogmatically, but as Watts desired that his pictures should do,
stimulating in the observer both the asking and the answering faculty.
In "Faith" we have a companion to "Hope." Wearied and saddened by
persecutions, she washes her blood-stained feet in a running stream, and
recognising the influence of Love in all the beauty of Nature, she feels
that the sword is not the best argument, and takes it off. The colouring
of this picture is rich and forcible, the maroon robe of the figure
being one of Watts' favourite attempts.

A satisfying picture of a little child emerging from the latest wave on
the shore of humanity's ocean, asks the question, _Whence and Whither_.
I reserve for "Hope" the final word (see Plate III.). If, as I said, the
optimism which is spiritual and ideal springs from the pessimism which
is material and actual, so too does Hope grow from the bosom of
Despair. This the picture shows. Crouching on the sphere of the world
sits the blindfold figure of a woman, bending her ear to catch the music
of one only string preserved on her lyre. When everything has failed,
there is Hope; and Hope looks, in Watts' teaching, for that which cannot
fail, but which is ever triumphant, namely, Love.

_The Love Series_.--According to Watts, Love steers the boat of
humanity, who is seen in one of his canvases tossed about and almost
shipwrecked. Love does not do this easily, but he does it. Love, as a
winged youth, also guides Life, a fragile maiden, up the rocky
steep--Life, that would else fail and fall. Violets spring where Love
has trod, and as they ascend to the mountain top the air becomes more
golden. This picture, "Love and Life" (see Plate V.) was painted four
times. "Love and Death," painted three times, represents the
irresistible figure of Death tenderly, yet firmly, entering a door where
we know lies the beloved one. This is an eternal theme, suggested, I
believe, by a temporal incident--the death of a young member of the
Prinsep family. Love vainly pushes back the imperious figure; the
protecting flowers are trodden down and the dove mourns; and with it all
we feel that though Love fears Death, yet Death respects Love. Just as
"Love and Death" are companion pictures and tell complementary truths,
so "Time, Death, and Judgment" is related to "Love Triumphant" (see
Plate VI.). In the one we see Time, represented by a mighty youth half
clad in a red cloak, striding along with great vigour. His companion,
whom he holds by the hand, is Death, the sad mother with weary, downcast
eye and outspread lap ready to receive her load; but with neither of
them is the final word, for Judgment, poised in the clouds, wields his
fiery sword of eternal law and holds the balance before his hidden face.
In "Love Triumphant" Love takes the place of, and transcends Judgment.
Time and Death having travelled together through the ages, are in the
end overthrown, and Love alone rises on immortal wings. Thus the stoical
painter reaches his greatest height--tells his best truth.

_The Death Series_.--As may be expected, Death has no terrors for the
fundamental Watts. Never once does Death look with hollow eyes and
sunken cheeks, or grasp with bony fingers at the living. In "Death
Crowning Innocence," as a mother she puts her halo on the infant
Innocence, whom she claims. Death holds a Court to which all must
go--priest, soldier, king, cripple, beautiful woman, and young child.
The lion must die, the civilisation be overthrown, wealth, fame, and
pride must be let go--so Watts shows in his "Court of Death"; all come
to the end of the book marked _Finis_. Death is calm and majestic, with
angel wings, and overhead are the figures of Silence and Mystery,
guarding, but partially revealing what is beyond the veil--sunrise and
the star of hope; while even in the lap of Death nestles a new-born
babe--the soul passing into new realms through the gates of Death.

Again, Death is _the Messenger_ who comes, not to terrify, but as an
ambassador to call the soul away from this alien land, quietly touching
the waiting soul with the finger-tips. In the beautiful "Paolo and
Francesca" the lovers are seen as Dante told of them; wafted along by
the infernal wind; of them he spoke:

          "... Bard! Willingly
    I would address these two together coming,
    Which seem so light before the wind."

Francesca's reply to Dante is of Love and Death:

    "Love, that in gentle heart is quickly learnt,
    Entangled him by that fair form...;
    Love, that denial takes from none beloved,
    Caught me with pleasing him so passing well,
    That as thou seest, he yet deserts me not.
    Love brought us to one death."

Watts has admirably caught the sweetness and sorrow of this situation in
his beautiful picture, which, again, is one of the very few he
considered finally "finished." It is almost a monochrome of blues and
greys.

In "Time and Oblivion," one of the earliest of the symbolical paintings,
Time is again the stalwart man of imperishable youth, while Oblivion,
another form of Death, spreads her mantle of darkness over all, claiming
all.

_Landscapes_.--Although Watts will ever be remembered for his
allegorical, biblical, and portrait painting, yet he was by no means
deficient in landscape art. Indeed, he carried into that branch of work
his peculiar personality. Not only do his landscapes depict beautiful
scenery in a fitting manner, joining atmosphere, sunshine, and colour,
but they convey in an extraordinary degree the mood of Nature and of
Man. "The Sphinx by Night" has an air of mystery about it that
immediately impresses the spectator, and tells him something that cannot
be communicated by words. The Italian and the Asiatic canvases by Watts,
"Florence," "Fiesole," "Correna," "Cos," and "Asia Minor," all induce
the feeling of repose and happiness, and the message that Nature sends
to her devotees comes sweetly and calmly in "The Rainbow," where we look
over an extensive valley from high ground, while heavy clouds and the
rainbow adorn the upper air. In "The Cumulus" we "see skyward great
cloud masses rolling, silently swelling and mixing." They recall perhaps
the memories of the child, to whom the mountains of the air are a
perpetual wonder. When in Savoy in 1888, Watts painted the Alps, again
with a cloudy sky and a rocky foreground. In this the quietude of the
scene penetrates the beholder. English landscape, to which all true
hearts return, was successfully depicted, both in form and spirit, by
Watts' "Landscape with Hayricks" (like the Brighton Downs), a quiet
view from the summit of a hillside, on which are seen some hayricks. But
perhaps the highest of them all is that very peaceful idyll named "All
the air a solemn stillness holds." It was a view from the garden of
Little Holland House. The time is sunset; a man and two horses are
wending their way home. There are farm buildings on the left, and a
thick wood in the background. In this one we feel how thoroughly Watts
uses all forms as expressions of his invisible moods. In purely
imaginative landscape, however, Watts struck his highest note. His
"Deluge" canvases are wonderful attempts; in "The Dove that returned in
the Evening," the bird is the only creature seen flying across the
dreary waste of waters, placid but for three long low waves. On the
horizon the artist has dimly suggested the ark of Noah. "Mount Ararat"
is especially worthy of mention among the landscapes.

[Illustration: PLATE VIII.--PRAYER

(At the Manchester Art Gallery)

     This is one of the most simple and beautiful of Watts' early
     works. The young woman is kneeling at the table, book in hand,
     her mind absorbed in thoughts of reverence. Painted in 1860.]

Before Watts entered upon his series of great imaginative paintings he
had used realism for didactic purposes. In those days his work was less
rugged than in later times, and had a delicateness and refinement which
is seen to perfection in some of his earlier portraits. A few of these
efforts may be mentioned. "Study" is the bust of a girl, with long red
hair, looking upwards; it represents a beautiful combination of
spirituality and human affection. "The Rain it raineth every day" is a
picture of ennui and utter weariness, beautifully and sympathetically
expressed. The colouring is very brave. In "Prayer" (see Plate VIII.)
the simplicity of the treatment may lead any one to pass it by as
something slight and conventional, but it is perhaps one of the greatest
of this type where simplicity and spirituality are combined. In
"Choosing" Watts approached very near to the summit of simplicity and
charm. A golden-haired girl is choosing a camellia blossom; but where
all are so beautiful it is difficult for her to decide. Great interest
in this picture lies in the fact that it was painted in 1864, and was
drawn from Watts' young bride Miss Ellen Terry. One is almost tempted to
find in this picture the germ of allegory which grew to such heights in
the artist's later efforts.

_The Warrior Series_.--Watts, like Ruskin and many other of the
nineteenth-century philosophic artists, idealised warfare. His warriors
are not clad in khaki; they do not crouch behind muddy earthworks. They
are of the days before the shrapnel shell and Maxim gun; they wear
bright steel armour, wield the sword and lance, and by preference they
ride on horseback. Indeed, they are of no time or country, unless of the
house of Arthur and the land of Camelot.

We are thus able to understand the characteristic of Watts' warrior
pictures. The first is "Caractacus," the British chief; though no
Christian, he is the earliest of Watts' heroes. The second is the
beautiful "Sir Galahad," whose strength was as the strength of ten,
because his heart was pure. We see a knight standing bare-headed at the
side of his white horse, gazing with rapt eyes on the vision of the Holy
Grail, which in the gloom and solitude of the forest has suddenly dawned
on his sight. The features of young Arthur Prinsep, with his bushy hair,
who later became a general in the British army, can be detected in this
wonderful and simple picture. Its composition is like a stained-glass
window. It is of all Watts' perhaps the nearest to mysticism, and at the
same time it is an appeal to the young to be like Sir Galahad. The
original is in Eton College Chapel.

In 1863 followed "The Eve of Peace," in which we see a warrior of middle
age, much like Watts himself at that time, who has lost the passion for
warfare, sheathing his sword, glad to have it all over. The peacock
feather that is strewn on the floor of "The Court of Death," and lies by
the bier in "Sic Transit," is fastened to the warrior's casque.
"Aspiration," also taken from young Prinsep (1866), is a picture of a
young man in the dawn of life's battle, who, wishing to be a
standard-bearer, looks out across the plain. He sees into the great
possibilities of human life, and the ardent spirit of life is sobered by
the burden of responsibilities. "Watchman, what of the Night?" is
another wonderful composition, representing a figure with long hair,
clad in armour, looking out into the darkness of the night, with his
hand grasping the hilt of the sword. The colour, low in tone, and the
whole composition, indicate doubt and yet faith. Ellen Terry was the
model for this painting.

"The Condottiere" represents the fighting spirit of the Middle Ages.
This soldier is, like the others, clad in armour, and is not likely to
have a vision of the Holy Grail. His features represent the
determination and vigour which were required of him in those ferocious
days. "The Red Cross Knight accompanying Una" is a charming picture,
representing an incident in Spenser's "Faery Queen," but the palm must
be given to "The Happy Warrior," who is depicted at the moment of death,
his head falling back, and his helmet unloosed, catching a glimpse of
some angelic face, who speaks to him in terms of comfort and of peace.
This picture, of all the others, shows how Watts has insisted on
carrying to the very highest point of idealism the terrible activities
of warfare:

    "This, the Happy Warrior, this is he,
    That every man in arms should wish to be."

He sent a copy, the original of which is in the Munich Gallery, to Lord
Dufferin, whose son was killed in the South African War, and he declares
that many bereaved mothers have thanked him for the inspiration and
comfort it has brought to them.

Watts' pictures are widely distributed; a roomful may be seen at the
Tate Gallery, Millbank, S.W. Nearly all the portraits of public men are
at the National Portrait Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London. There is a
portrait of Thomas Carlyle in the South Kensington Museum, three or four
pictures at the Manchester Corporation Gallery, and one at the Leicester
Art Gallery. There are also several of Watts' best pictures in a gallery
attached to his country house at Compton in Surrey; while his fresco
"Justice" can be seen at the Benchers' Hall, Lincoln's Inn.

Watts was conscious of the benefit he had received from the great men
who had preceded him, and in his best moments so essentially humble,
that in his last will and testament, and the letters of gift, he rises
to the great height of artistic patriotism which always appeared to him
in the light of a supreme duty.

The former document has the following phrases: "I bequeath all my
studies and works to any provincial gallery or galleries in Great
Britain or Ireland, which my executors shall in their discretion select,
and to be distributed between such galleries." This Will is dated
November 1, 1899, and relates to such works as had not already been
disposed of. His great gift to the nation was made in 1897, accompanied
by a characteristic letter in which he says:

     "You can have the pictures any time after next Sunday. I have
     never regarded them as mine, but never expected they would be
     placed anywhere until after my death, and only see now my
     presumption and their defects and shrink from the consequences
     of my temerity! I should certainly like to have them placed
     together, but of course can make no conditions. One or two are
     away, and I am a little uncertain about the sending of some
     others; if you could spare a moment I should like to consult
     you."

A few weeks later, following a letter from the Keeper of the National
Gallery, he writes as follows:

     "I beg to thank you and through you the Trustees and Director
     of the National Gallery for the flattering intention of
     placing the tablet you speak of, but while returning grateful
     thanks for the intention of doing me this honour I should like
     it to be felt that I have in no way desired anything but the
     recognition that my object in work, and the offering of it,
     has only been the hope of spending my time and exercising my
     experience in a worthy manner, leaving to time further
     judgment. Most certainly I desire that my pictures should be
     seen to advantage, and have a good effect as an encouragement
     to artists of stronger fibre and greater vitality, to pursue
     if only occasionally a similar direction and object."

At the end of a long life by no means devoid of mistakes and
disappointments, it would seem as though Watts attained to his desires.
The man has passed away, while the witness of his aspirations remains.



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