GEORGE FREDERICK WATTS, O.M., R.A. (BRITISH, 1817-1904)
GEORGE FREDERICK WATTS, O.M., R.A. (BRITISH, 1817-1904)

THE DOVE THAT RETURNED NOT AGAIN

Details
GEORGE FREDERICK WATTS, O.M., R.A. (BRITISH, 1817-1904)
THE DOVE THAT RETURNED NOT AGAIN
OIL ON CANVAS
69 X 28IN. (175.3 X 71.1CM.)
Provenance
BOUGHT FROM THE ARTIST BY WILLIAM CARVER OF MANCHESTER, 1888; CHRISTIE'S, LONDON, 22 MARCH 1890, LOT 130, 470 GNS.
CHARLES J. GALLOWAY OF THORNEYHOLME, KNUTSFORD, CHESHIRE; HIS SALE, CHRISTIE'S, LONDON, 24 JUNE 1905, LOT 111, 580 GNS. TO BAMBRIDGE (SIC).
SHARPLEY BAINBRIDGE OF HATFIELD HOUSE, LINCOLN; CHRISTIE'S, LONDON, 10 FEBRUARY 1922, LOT 142 (AS THE DOVE), 270 GNS. TO MAJOR B.
Literature
ATHENAEUM, NO. 2828, 7 JANUARY 1882, P. 23.
MRS M. S. WATTS MANUSCRIPT CATALOGUE, VOL. I, P. 39.
MRS RUSSELL BARRINGTON, REMINISCENCES OF G. F. WATTS, 1905, PP. 137-8.
Exhibited
LONDON, ROYAL ACADEMY, 1877, NO. 566 (AS THE DOVE).
NEW YORK, METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, PAINTINGS BY G. F. WATTS, R.A., 1884-85, NO. 136.
BIRMINGHAM, MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY, COLLECTION OF PAINTINGS BY G. F. WATTS, R.A. AND EDWARD BURNE-JONES, A.R.A., 1885, NO. 159.
NOTTINGHAM, MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY, COLLECTION OF PICTURES BY G. F. WATTS, R.A., 1886.
LONDON, NEW GALLERY, THE WORKS OF G. F. WATTS, WINTER 1896-97, NO. 102.
LONDON, ROYAL ACADEMY, WORKS BY THE LATE GEORGE FREDERICK WATTS, R.A., O.M., WINTER 1905, NO. 203.
LONDON, CHRISTOPHER WOOD GALLERY AND JULIAN HARTNOLL, AND NEW YORK, SHEPHERD GALLERY, ENGLISH 19TH CENTURY PRE-RAPHAELITE AND ACADEMIC DRAWINGS, WATERCOLOURS, GRAPHICS AND PAINTINGS, 1986, NO. 106, ILLUSTRATED.

Lot Essay

THE PICTURE ILLUSTRATES GENESIS, CHAPTER 8, IN WHICH IT IS RECORDED HOW NOAH SENT FORTH A DOVE FROM THE ARK TO SEE IF THE FLOOD WATERS HAD ABATED. THE FIRST TIME, FINDING NO RESTING PLACE, SHE RETURNED; THE SECOND TIME SHE RETURNED BEARING AN OLIVE LEAF; AND THE THIRD TIME SHE FAILED TO RETURN AT ALL, HAVING FOUND A TREE TO NEST IN. WATTS SEEMS TO HAVE DEVELOPED AN INTEREST IN THE STORY OF NOAH IN THE EARLY 1860S, WHEN HE DESIGNED TWO SUBJECTS, NOAH BUILDING THE ARK AND THE SACRIFICE OF NOAH, FOR THE DALZIEL BROTHERS' ILLUSTRATED BIBLE. THE THEME ALSO INSPIRED THE RETURN OF THE DOVE TO THE ARK (FARINGDON COLLECTION TRUST, BUSCOT PARK, OXFORDSHIRE), A PAINTING EXHIBITED AT THE ROYAL ACADEMY IN 1869.

THE PRESENT PICTURE WAS SHOWN AT THE R.A. IN 1877, AND IN 1884 IT WAS SENT TO NEW YORK FOR THE EXHIBITION OF WORKS BY WATTS THAT WAS MOUNTED THAT YEAR AT THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART. 'THE FLOOD IS SUBSIDING', WROTE HIS NEIGHBOUR AND FUTURE BIOGRAPHER, MRS RUSSELL BARRINGTON, IN THE CATALOGUE, 'AND THE DOVE HAS FOUND A BRANCH OF A TREE TO REST ON. THE IVY-LEAVES THAT CLING TO IT ARE SODDEN AND BROWN, AND, CAUGHT IN A FORK OF THE STEM, ARE REMNANTS OF DRAPERY AND JEWELS, TOKENS OF THE FLOOD. THE CLOUDY VAPOURS HAVE LIFTED; THERE IS AN AWAKENING OF LIGHT AND COLOUR, STILL MISTY AND YOUNG, LIKE THE BLUE EYE OF A CHILD WHEN IT FIRST WAKES INTO THE LIFE AND MOVEMENT OF THE DAY. NATURE IS READJUSTING HERSELF TO A BRIGHTER, HAPPIER MOOD'.

THE PICTURE IS A REMARKABLE EXAMPLE OF WATTS' ABILITY TO CONJURE SIGNIFICANCE AND MEANING OUT OF THE SIMPLEST PICTORIAL COMPONENTS. AS HE HIMSELF WROTE TO HIS PATRON CHARLES RICKARDS ON 27 MARCH 1877, 'THOUGH THE PICTURE IS BUT A STUMP AND A BIRD, IT REPRESENTS PERHAPS MORE THAN ANYTHING I HAVE DONE, THE ACCUMULATED EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE. IN IT I HAVE CARRIED FURTHER THAN IN ANY OTHER PICTURE CERTAIN QUALITIES THAT I HAVE BEEN STRIVING AFTER FOR A GREAT MANY YEARS'. NO OTHER BRITISH ARTIST OF THE PERIOD POSSESSED THIS KIND OF IMAGINATION, AND INDEED WATTS HIMSELF ONLY OCCASIONALLY APPROACHED SUCH AN INTENSE LEVEL OF AWARENESS. PERHAPS THE CLOSEST PARALLEL IS THE PARASITE (WATTS GALLERY, COMPTON), A LATE MASTERPIECE OF 1903 WHICH MAKES A PROFOUND SYMBOLICAL STATEMENT OUT OF LITTLE MORE THAN A TREE-TRUNK COVERED WITH IVY.
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