The Art of the Sublime

George Frederic Watts The All-Pervading 1887–90

George Frederic Watts 'The All-Pervading' 1887-90
Full screen
George Frederic Watts 1817–1904
The All-Pervading 1887–90
Oil paint on canvas
support: 2135 x 1120 mm;
Presented by the artist 1899
Tate N01687
In this painting Watts wanted to express the spirit governing the system he called ‘the immeasurable expanse’. A heavily draped figure, enveloped by large wings, gazes deep into a globe or crystal ball held at the centre of the composition. Despite its weighty robes the figure appears to defy gravity as it hovers mysteriously in space. Like Michelangelo’s sibyls on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Watts’s figure appears monumental and androgynous, qualities which suggest a higher knowledge of the universe.

How to cite

George Frederic Watts, The All-Pervading 1887-90, in Nigel Llewellyn and Christine Riding (eds.), The Art of the Sublime, January 2013,, accessed 20 December 2014.