Tag Archives: Allegorical Paintings

#FineArtFriday: Hope by George Frederic Watts 1886

Title: Hope, by George Frederic Watts

Date: 1886

Genre: allegory

Medium: oil on canvas

Dimensions Height: 142.2 cm (55.9 in); Width: 111.8 cm (44 in)

Collection:  Tate Britain

Notes: Presented by George Frederic Watts 1897

What I love about this painting:

This painting strikes home with me. Hope is blindfolded, battered, dressed in rags, and cast adrift in the universe. She clings to a lyre upon which only one string remains—yet Hope turns her head to hear the sound of that one string. The lone star in the sky is nearly invisible, yet it is there, deliberately placed. Watts’s choice of symbols for this allegory and the stark layout of the composition combine to create a powerful idea—Hope makes music with one string when nothing else remains.

About this painting (via Wikipedia):

Hope is a Symbolist oil painting by the English painter George Frederic Watts, who completed the first two versions in 1886. Radically different from previous treatments of the subject, it shows a lone blindfolded female figure sitting on a globe, playing a lyre that has only a single string remaining. The background is almost blank, its only visible feature a single star. Watts intentionally used symbolism not traditionally associated with hope to make the painting’s meaning ambiguous. While his use of colour in Hope was greatly admired, at the time of its exhibition many critics disliked the painting. Hope proved popular with the Aesthetic Movement, who considered beauty the primary purpose of art and were unconcerned by the ambiguity of its message. Reproductions in platinotype, and later cheap carbon prints, soon began to be sold.

Although Watts received many offers to buy the painting, he had agreed to donate his most important works to the nation and felt it would be inappropriate not to include Hope. Consequently, later in 1886 Watts and his assistant Cecil Schott painted a second version. On its completion Watts sold the original and donated the copy to the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum); thus, this second version is better known than the original. He painted at least two further versions for private sale.

About the Artist, via Wikipedia:

George Frederic Watts OM RA (23 February 1817, in London – 1 July 1904) was a British painter and sculptor associated with the Symbolist movement. He said “I paint ideas, not things.” Watts became famous in his lifetime for his allegorical works, such as Hope and Love and Life. These paintings were intended to form part of an epic symbolic cycle called the “House of Life”, in which the emotions and aspirations of life would all be represented in a universal symbolic language.


Credits and Attributions:

Hope, by George Frederic Watts 1885. Wikipedia contributors, “Hope (painting),” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Hope_(painting)&oldid=946584185 (accessed March 27, 2020).

Wikipedia contributors, “Hope (painting),” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Hope_(painting)&oldid=946584185 (accessed March 27, 2020).

Wikipedia contributors, “George Frederic Watts,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=George_Frederic_Watts&oldid=947120342 (accessed March 27, 2020).

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