Curator’s talk

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Tate curator of 19th century British art, Alison Smith, talks about five George Frederic Watts works in the Tate Collection.

The figure of Hope is traditionally identified by an anchor. In this picture she is blindfolded, seated on a globe and playing a lyre of which all the strings are broken except one. Watts wanted to find a more original approach to symbolism and allegory. But Hope’s attempts to make music here appear futile and several critics argued that the work might have been more appropriately titled Despair. Watts explained that ‘Hope need not mean expectancy. It suggests here rather the music which can come from the remaining chord’.

(From the display caption July 2007)