George Frederic Watts

Love Triumphant


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Not on display

George Frederic Watts 1817–1904
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 2965 x 1702 mm
Presented by the artist 1900


Love Triumphant was presented by the artist soon after completion in 1900 as one of several paintings that Watts wished to present to the British Nation, and which are now held at Tate. The Tate work is the larger and later of two versions made by Watts of Love Triumphant, the smaller of which is at the Watts Gallery, Compton. Ideas in the form of small jottings in pen and pencil were made of the composition in 1893-4 and the smaller, Compton version was begun c.1895. The earlier version was widely exhibited and was still unfinished when it was shown at the exhibition of Watts's work at the New Gallery in 1896-7. Watts worked upon the Tate version without interruption during the Winter and Spring of 1900. According to Mary Watts, the artist's serious illness in October 1899 had made him particularly anxious to complete both this version of Love Triumphant and another late work, The Court of Death (c.1870-1902, Tate N01894) (Mary Watts, Catalogue of Works by G.F. Watts, c.1915, Watts Gallery, Compton).

The figure of Time with his scythe and the draped female figure of Death may be recognised from Watts's earlier compostion, Time, Death, and Judgement (c.1889-1900, Tate N01693). In Love Triumphant, they lie dead on the ground. Watts wrote of Love Triumphant: ' "Time-constructor and destroyer - sinks and falls; Death sleeps who once put all to sleep; Love Triumphant spreads his wings, rising to seek his native home, his abiding place".' According to Mary Watts, while standing in front of Love Triumphant, Watts once said: ' "You see I want to plant the feet of Love distinctly on the ground. In this life all that is spiritual must get its impetus from the ground beneath our feet. That must be recognised, though there are minds to whom the truth appears to be irreligious' (Watts, II, p.256). The figure of Judgement from the earlier composition, Time, Death, and Judgement is also represented in Love Triumphant. Love is surrounded by billowing drapery which has risen from the ground and is dissolving into misty cloud to the right. This drapery was intended to portray 'the last trail of the robe of Judgement as it passes out of sight' (Mary Watts, Catalogue of Works by G.F. Watts, c.1915, Watts Gallery, Compton). Watts's adopted daughter, Lilian Chapman (née Mackintosh), posed for the figure of Love in Love Triumphant. A drawing of the head of Love is in the collection of Ronald Chapman.

Further reading:
M.S. Watts, George Frederic Watts: The Annals of an Artist's Life, London 1912, II, p.256, 265, 289.
Rowland Alston, The Mind & Work of G.F. Watts, O.M., R.A., London 1929, no.23, plate VIII.

Rebecca Virag
July 2001

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