George Frederic Watts and assistants

Chaos

c.1875–82

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 1067 x 3048 mm
frame: 1395 x 3375 x 90 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by George Frederic Watts 1897
Reference
N01647

Display caption

‘Chaos’ is the formless state prior to the creation of the ‘universe’ in many beliefs including classical mythology and Judaism. The Roman poet Ovid (1st century BC) described chaos as ‘a rude and undeveloped mass...all discordant elements confused, were there congested in a shapeless heap’. In 1850 Watts planned a series of murals representing ‘the progress of the cosmos’. Here he charts a path of evolution. Primeval confusion is represented by giants struggling to release themselves from fire and vapour. The establishment of measurable time and space is signalled by the chain of female figures to the right.

Gallery label, July 2010

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