George Frederic Watts

Love and Death

c.1885–7

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 2476 x 1168 mm
frame: 2835 x 1505 x 110 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the artist 1897
Reference
N01645

Display caption

Watts described this painting as ‘the progress of the inevitable but not terrible Death, who partially but not completely overshadows Love’. Love, with massive crushed wings, is vainly trying to defend the House of Life. Death advances calmly, with bowed head, trampling the wild roses in its path, but not disturbing the dove near its feet.

Watts produced a number of versions of Love and Death. It became one of his most discussed works, probably because it deliberately rejects traditional memento mori imagery and casts Death in a more positive light.

Gallery label, September 2004