A REVIEW OF WATTS' WORK

Failing the "Progress of the Cosmos," we have from the mind and brush of Watts a great number of paintings, which may be grouped according to their character. Such divisions must not be regarded as rigid or official, for often enough a picture may belong to several groups at the same time. For the purpose of our survey, however, we divide them as follows:

1. Monumental or Historical Paintings and Frescoes.
2. Humanitarian or Social Paintings.
3. Portraits, private and public.
4. Biblical Paintings.
5. Mythical Paintings.
6. "Pessimistic" Paintings.
7. The Great Realities.
8. The Love Series.
9. The Death Series.
10. Landscapes.
11. Unclassified Paintings.
12. Paintings of Warriors. 

"Caractacus" was the first of the monumental paintings; by them Watts appears as a citizen and a patriot, whose insular enthusiasm extends backward to the time when the British chief Caractacus fought and was subdued by the Romans. He enters also into the spirit of the resistance offered to the Danes by King Alfred. George and the Dragon are included by him in the historical though mythical events of our race. Undoubtedly the most remarkable of Watts' monumental paintings is the fresco entitled "Justice; a Hemicycle of Lawgivers," painted for the Benchers' Hall in Lincoln's Inn. It is 45 x 40 feet. Here Watts, taking the conventional and theoretical attitude, identifies law-making with justice, and in his fresco we see thirty-three figures, representing Moses, Zoroaster, Pythagoras, Confucius, Lycurgus and his fellow-Greeks, Numa Pompilius and other Romans. Here figures also Justinian, the maker of the great Code; Mahomet, King Alfred, and even Attila the Hun. The painting represents the close of this phase of Watts' work; he received a gift of £500 and a gold cup in memory of its achievement. In England, at least, no one has ever attempted or accomplished anything in fresco of so great dimensions. Watts' monumental genius drove him to sculpture on the grand scale also. "Hugh Lupus" for the Duke of Westminster, and "Physical Energy," upon which he laboured at intervals during twenty-five years of his life, are his great triumphs in this direction. It is not the first time that an artist deficient in health and strength has made physical energy into a demigod. Men often, perhaps always, idealise what they have not. It was the wish of the sculptor to place a cast of "Physical Energy" on the grave of Cecil Rhodes on the Matoppo Hills in South Africa, indicating how Watts found it possible (by idealising what he wished to idealise), to include within the scope and patronage of his art, the activities, aims, and interests of modern Colonial Enterprise.

Humanitarian Paintings.—The earliest of these, "The Wounded Heron," asks our pity for the injured bird, and forbids us to join in the enthusiasm of the huntsman who hurries for his suffering prize. The same thought is expressed in the beautiful "Shuddering Angel," who is covering his face with his hands at the sight of the mangled plumage scattered on the altar of fashion. In the large canvases, "A Patient Life of Unrequited Toil," and "Midday Rest," we have paintings of horses, both of them designed to teach us consideration for the "friend of man." "The Sempstress" sings us Tom Hood's "Song of the Shirt."

"The Good Samaritan" (see Plate VII.) properly belongs to this series. It was presented by the artist to the citizens of Manchester, as an expression of his admiration of Thomas Wright, the prison philanthropist, whose work was at that time (1852) creating a sensation in the north of England. If we compare this painting with other Biblical subjects executed at a later date, we see how much Watts' work has gained since then. The almost smooth texture and the dark shadows of the Manchester picture have given way to ruggedness and transparency. Still, "The Good Samaritan" is simple and excellent in purpose and composition.

A little known painting entitled "Cruel Vengeance," seems to be a forecast of "Mammon"; a creature with human form and vulture's head presses under his hand a figure like the maiden whose head rests on Mammon's knee. In "Greed and Labour" the seer's eye pierces through the relations between the worker and his master; Labour is a fine strong figure loaded with the implements of his toil, with no feeling of subjection in his manly face; on the other hand, the miser creeping behind him, clutching the money bags, represents that Greed who, as Mammon, is seen sitting on his throne of death. "Mammon" is, however, the greatest of the three, containing in itself the ideas and forms of the other two. It is a terrible picture of the god to whom many bow the knee—"dedicated to his worshippers." His leaden face shows a consciousness of power, but not happiness arising from power; his dull eyes see nothing, though his mind's eye sees one thing clearly—the money bags on his lap. The two frail creatures of youth and maiden, "types of humanity" as Watts said, are crushed by his heavy limbs, while behind a fire burns continuously, perhaps also within his massive breast.