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Title:G. F. Watts, a Soldier in the Battle for an Art of Ideas
Author(s):Board, Marilynn Anacker
Department / Program:Art and Design
Discipline:Art History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Fine Arts
Abstract:The thesis of this dissertation is two-fold: it argues that throughout his career Watts' work iconographically reflects the ideas of such thinkers as Carlyle, Arnold, Tennyson, Darwin, Drummond, Spencer and Mill, and that his aesthetic theories both descend from late eighteenth-century neoclassical theorists and foreshadow the abstract intentions of modernism. Chapter one amalgamates various accounts of Watts' early life to present a more complete view of this often neglected formative period. On a more theoretical level, the sources of many of his assumptions about the nature and function of art are traced to the writings of Reynolds, Flaxman, and Fuseli. Chapter two presents the first historical and theoretical account of Watts' involvement with the Pre-Raphaelites. The dilineation of his relationship to Arnold and Ruskin helps to clarify his stand in the controversy between realism and idealism, while emphasizing the fact that although he was an idealist interested in abstractions, he remained committed to an artistic involvement in social issues and moral concerns. Chapter three establishes Watts' position on the didatic possibilities of art, defining his leading role in the revival of interest in Hellenic subjects, and addressing his beliefs concerning the analogy of art to music, the nude, l'art pour l'art, and the Royal Academy. His later life and his sacrosanct contemporary reputation are briefly recounted in chapter four, along with the effects on his work of his Darwinian rejection of traditional Christianity and his hopes for the reformation of institutional religion in line with a 'natural religion' of altruistic love. Chapter five probes his conception of art as a phophetic vehicle for social progress and explores his treatment of the themes of love, death, mystical imperialism and the heroic sentiment. In the conclusion reasons for the immense fluxuations in Watts' reputation are assessed and his relationship to the symbolist movement in Europe is traced. His position as a pioneer modernist is asserted and a plea is made for a recognition of his contribution to the idea that art is a spiritual emblem of the mind of man.
Issue Date:1982
Description:512 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1982.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8218432
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-16
Date Deposited:1982

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