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‘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.

July 2010