Acquire aniconic sculpture
Admirers of great sculpture have a rare opportunity this season. Seven of those casts have already been sold, and one of the remaining two can be found. Impressive at almost three feet high, this bronze sale will beneft that the Hope 2020 Appeal, a fundraising effort to eliminate the fscal defcit this challenging year has necessarily engendered. The Watts group has reason to be optimistic regarding its estimate of £40,000–£60,000 (US$52,000–$77,000): in 2011 Christie’s sold a phase plaster version of Clytie for £68,500.
Watts’s title resounded loudly during the late 19th century. A generation of European artists called him”Signor,” and into the wider public he was”England’s Michelangelo,” the genius who created works uplifting in visual influence as well as spiritual insight. A version of his Love and Life was revealed there and traveled to the 1893 world’s fair in Chicago. Watts donated it to the American people, and it hung from the White House for so many years.
The sculpture Clytie depicts the ocean nymph celebrated by the Roman poet Ovid in his compilation of intimate tales, Metamorphoses. She fell in love with the sun god Apollo, who left her. The grief-stricken girl fasted for nine days while watching her beloved drive his chariot across the sky. Soon she became rooted to the spot and has been transformed to the sunfower, which turns its mind to follow the sun every day.
Beauty, quiet grief, along with the endless human struggle for religious light Watts developed Clytie between 1867 and 1878 while observing several versions, including a male one for a number of the substantial musculature. He exhibited an unfnished marble variation in 1868 at London’s Royal Academy of Arts, in which it was acclaimed by these”infuencers” since the poet Algernon Swinburne, who wrote:”Not imitative, nor even assimilative of Michael Angelo’s manner, it nonetheless by a few obscure and inefable quality brings to mind his work rather than any Greek sculptor’s. There is exactly the exact same extreme and fery sentiment, the exact same grandeur of device, the exact same mystery of catastrophe. The color and fire of the work are the workman’s very own. Never was a divine legend translated into diviner likeness.” Though Watts was best known as a painter, the statue he did create was always infuential — a fact that will be researched by curator Cicely Robinson in an exhibition that opens next year at the Watts Gallery. Fortunately, it owns three period versions of Clytie–in plaster, bronze, and terracotta.
Clytie refects Watts’s complex cultural inheritances. As one of those so-called”Olympian” musicians of late Victorian England, he reinvigorated the classical heritage by looking afresh at ancient Greek temples, especially the Parthenon (“Elgin”) Marbles at the British Museum — not shying away in the nudity which made a number of his countrymen anxious. Yet Watts had also spent four years in Italy, in which he fell for Michelangelo’s sensuousness and naturalistic (sometimes imperfect) energy. We see these juxtapositions in Clytie’s intricately creased garment as well as the vibrant play of shadow and light on her undulating fesh.
In case you still haven’t visited the Watts Gallery, look at doing so after it’s safe to go to England again. There you will fnd, not surprisingly, the world’s largest collection of sculptures, paintings, and drawings produced by Watts. This, however, is not a place centered on one man: the complex is now called an Artists’ Village since it also shows the fascinating story of his younger wife, the gifted ceramist Mary Seton Watts, and her several protegés. In 1890 the few commissioned a state home, Limnerslease, that nonetheless contains Watts’s double-height studio and the huge room where Mary ofered classes in clay modeling for as many as 70 locals. Over the decade she’d designed and assembled an extraordinary mortuary chapel, a Celtic Revival and Art Nouveau miracle in terracotta dedicated in 1898.
Having successfully coached a force of local individuals in a variety of crafts, the Wattses next gained three acres across the road to build the Compton Pottery, which Mary conducted for another 40 years. Despite Mary’s careful tending of this fame up before her death in 1938, his reputation declined immediately after World War I, and he remained in oblivion before the final quarter of the 20th century.
Over the previous two decades, a string of wellplanned rethinks and renovations have breathed new life into the Artists’ Village. This season, the sale of Clytie can help sustain the momentum that has developed there. Fantastic luck with your bidding in Christie’s! Bids may be placed online starting November 26.