Transcript of Film: Introduction, including Hope With Alison Smith, Curator (19th Century British Art), Tate Britain "George Frederic Watts is one of the most famous painters of the nineteenth century. He's an unusual artist in that he was incredibly ambitious. He wanted to address the human condition, taking on some of the great things from the past - classical things, biblical things, mythological ones - but also address social concerns of his own day, such as poverty, commerce, greed. " "He created his own visual language, he created his own mythology, his own subject matter, and very individual technique. Very heavy, textured technique, where the emphasis tends to be on abstract elements and on sort of vaporised dissolving forms rather than the images being immediately legible and clear. So it's really a symbolic language if you want to use that term." "Watts is in fact a very accessible artist. I think looking at pictures I think for instance in this room, the fact that they address concerns such as commerce, materialism, love and death, these are still issues that concern us today." "In some ways Watts is very relevant, if one thinks of the new age, new age religion, a lot of people today question traditional sort of orthodox religious beliefs. They're seeking alternatives. They're seeking to create alternative belief systems. So just as an artist such as William Blake appeals to the modern taste, because of his invented religion and mythology, so Watts does as well. He tried to create modern solutions to age-old and perennial problems." "You tend to become rather vague when talking about Watts because it's very difficult to define precisely what his subject matter is about. I think he really wanted to reach beyond language, or beyond words to touch some essential element of what it is to be a human being, and beyond that to address some of the key concerns of existence, such as the nature of love, of death, of consciousness." "Hope is one of Watts' most unusual images. It's very difficult to define precisely what it's about. Is it an image of despair? Death? Love? Hope? And what it shows is a sort of figure blindfolded, sitting on the globe, on the world, desperately trying to make music on an instrument, a lyre, of which only one string is left. So it's this idea of the music which might come off the remaining chord. So I think it's the idea that hope doesn't mean expectancy. In fact a lot of his contemporaries thought the painting would be more appropriately titled despair." "Given Watts' enormous reputation in the nineteenth century, it's quite interesting to consider that in the twentieth century his reputation did begin to decline. This is something to do with the reputation of Victorian art in general, which was considered by twentieth century modernists to be rather sentimental, anecdotal, or perhaps in Watts' case to be a bit didactic or moralistic. And also I think in terms of his technique, some people have found the textures of his pictures to be rather heavy, leaden and lumpy, and a little bit mawkish." "I think Watts' paintings are best appreciated when they're seen as a group, rather than perhaps on their own. I think when you see them together as a sequence or a group, you can see how the different works correspond or dialogue with each other, so certain figures relate to other ones, certain colours or shapes, and I think the idea was that these different sort of themes, like a symphony, would resonate, reverberate, and they'd somehow accumulate to total one grand symphonic or Wagnerian statement. And that's why I think Watts wanted them displayed against this powerful red. The red I think is a sort of thread which would link them altogether. "So I think in terms of compositional design, when they're seen en masse, they have a very powerful impact."