The pointless meaningfulness of Watts's work

Paul Barlow

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The article explores Watts’ attempts to construct a universalist mode of artistic practice that also mapped the evolution of human culture and envisioned a future ideal state of cultural integration. This is connected with the emergence of theosophy, comparative mythology and other movements with which Watts’ project engages. It is then placed in the context of the modernist narrative that it partly works against, while also helping to form distinctive modes of abstractionism, primitivism and symbolist practice. The article argues that Watts attempts to fuse Classicist forms with an ethos of fluidity and evolutionary development. The article examines Watts’s conception that his individual works form part of a project defined by its very incompleteness: both in the overall form of the project and the pictorial surfaces of its component images. This article emerges from a wider project: to interrogate the categories of ‘avant-garde’ and ‘academic’ practice in nineteenth century art, as first proposed in Barlow’s article ‘Fear and Loathing of the Academic’ (MUP 2000). This article also links in with later projects designed to explore the visualizing of links between ethno-racial and religious ideologies. In this case it examines the emerging impact of theories of Aryan/Eastern religious cultures in relation to Christian traditions through the mediating influence of Transcendentalism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRepresentations of G.F. Watts: art making in Victorian culture
Place of PublicationFarnham
Number of pages197
ISBN (Print)0754605981
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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