George Frederic Watts

Love and Life

c.1884–5

Not on display

Artist
George Frederic Watts 1817–1904
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 2222 × 1219 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the artist 1897
Reference
N01641

Display caption

Watts shows the figure of Hope blindfolded on a globe. She is playing a lyre, of which all the strings are broken except one. Several critics argued that Despair would be a more fitting title. Watts clarified: ‘Hope need not mean expectancy. It suggests here rather the music which can come from the remaining chord.’ The painting was much admired at the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle, the world fair that celebrated France’s empire. It was widely reproduced in print and often seen in Victorian households. Picasso used the painting as a source for The Old Guitarist (1903–4). More recently, Barak Obama claimed it inspired him to enter politics.

Gallery label, April 2021

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