Clytie was Watts’s first large sculpture. In his Metamorphoses, the Roman poet Ovid tells of an ocean nymph named Clytie, who fell in love with the sun-god Apollo. When he deserted her, she was changed into a sunflower that turns its head to follow the sun on its daily course from east to west.
Watts shows her metamorphosing into a flower, while also suggesting movement over time through the musculature and torsion of the body. He said he wanted to get an impression of colour, by which he meant the variation of light and shade across the surface of the sculpture.