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Gallery Text

Love and Death, one of Watts’s best-known compositions, was conceived as the artist contemplated universal themes following the death of a young friend. In the painting, which Watts described as a “symbolical” work, the Eros-like figure of Love tries in vain to halt the inexorable progress of Death, whose draped form is poised at the threshold. Watts’s friend and secretary, Mrs. Emilie Barrington, reported that “the intention in this picture has been . . . to endeavor to transmit by form and color a vision of an idea; to suggest, in the figure of Love, beauty, tender passion, and the struggle of unavailing anguish; and in the figure of Death, solemnity, power, irresistible and unconquerable; also an echo of that mystery which veils the unknown.”

Watts produced no less than a dozen replicas of the painting, in varying sizes, after it garnered public acclaim. This schematic drawing may represent an intermediary stage between versions.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
1967.16
People
Attributed to George Frederick Watts, British (London, England 1817 - 1904 Limnerslease, Compton, England)
Title
Study for "Love and Death"
Classification
Drawings
Work Type
drawing
Date
1887
Culture
British
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Charcoal on cream paper
Dimensions
28.4 x 13.7 cm (11 3/16 x 5 3/8 in.)
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Anonymous Gift
Accession Year
1967
Object Number
1967.16
Division
European and American Art
Contact
am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu
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Exhibition History

Flowers of Evil: Symbolist Drawings, 1870–1910, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/21/2016 - 08/14/2016

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu