After George Frederic Watts (British, 1817-1904) OM RA: A bronze equestrian reduction of 'Physical Energy'

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Lot 468* TP
After George Frederic Watts (British, 1817-1904) OM RA: A bronze equestrian reduction of 'Physical Energy'

Sold for £ 18,750 (US$ 24,630) inc. premium
After George Frederic Watts (British, 1817-1904) OM RA: A bronze equestrian reduction of 'Physical Energy'
formed as a stylised classical male rider on his rearing steed, on rectangular naturalistic wedge shaped base inscribed with title 'Physical Energy' and with Morris Singer Founders London foundry stamp, bronze with green-brown patina, raised on a ebonised wooden plinth base,
the bronze, 40cm high, 46cm wide, 17cm deep (including plinth, 65cm high, 53c wide, 28cm deep)

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Private collection, London (acquired late 1970s).
    By descent to the present owner.

    Primarily known as a symbolist painter, George Frederic Watts started training in sculpture at the age of 10 in the studio of William Behnes. He assiduously studied the Elgin Marbles, which he would later reference in his work.

    Watts began work on his monumental sculpture of Physical Energy in 1883, and based the model on his other large bronze equestrian figure of Hugh Lupus, which he finally completed in 1883, after twenty years work. The Marquis of Westminster commissioned the portrait of Lupus to commemorate the first of the Grosvenor's at Eaton Hall, and the composition was probably loosely based on equestrian elements of the Elgin Marbles, casts of which were found in the artist's studio.

    Physical Energy can perhaps be seen as an embodiment of Watts ideals, expressing his personal views about the modern age and man's role within it. He depicted man as ruler of the natural world and yet at one within it, with the rider seeming to move as one with the horse although there is no doubt that it is he who is ultimately the master in complete control.

    Physical Energy was the culmination of Watt's ambitions in the field of public sculpture and was finally cast in 1902 and exhibited at the Royal Academy that same year. The plaster model was part of the bequest to Watts Gallery after the artist's death in 1904. The bronze cast was gifted to the British Government and is standing now in front of the Rhodes Memorial in Cape Town, South Africa. A second cast from 1905 stands in Kensington Gardens, while a third cast from 1959, commissioned by the British South African Company, is situated on the grounds of the National Archives in Harare, Zimbabwe. The Watts Gallery commissioned a fourth cast in 2017 to commemorate the artist's 200th birthday.

    Thomas Wren, who was Watts' assistant, achieved a reduction of the gesso model in the collection of Watts Gallery in 1914 at the request of Mary Watts and the gallery trustees. The plan was to make a series of casts for commercial purpose and these copies were to be retailed from the Watts Gallery, the Fine Art Society and other outlets. It is reported that Wren recalled that around fifty were to be cast by the Parlanti foundry but this venture was curtailed by the outbreak of war. Four reduction casts that bear the title and Watts' and Wren's signatures on the base are now known, one of which was sold at Bonhams London in 2014.

    The present cast by the famous Morris Singer Foundry, without Watts' and Wren's name and of a slightly later date and smaller size, is part of a later series including one cast mentioned in a 1928 inventory of the Liverpool University Gallery and another (now lost) acquired by the Fogg Art Museum in 1929.

    The Singer Foundry was founded by John Webb Singer, a silversmith, at the Frome Art Metal Works in 1848. As well making the Trafalgar Square lions and the figure of Justice on top of the Old Bailey, the foundry was responsible for other London landmarks such as the statue of Boadicea by the Houses of Parliament. In 1927 it merged with the Morris Art Bronze Foundry and from the 1960s attracted commissions from sculptors including Dame Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Dame Elisabeth Frink.

    The iconic image of Physical Energy is used as the logo of Rhodes University, South Africa, and also by The Watts Gallery, Compton.
Contacts
After George Frederic Watts (British, 1817-1904) OM RA: A bronze equestrian reduction of 'Physical Energy'
After George Frederic Watts (British, 1817-1904) OM RA: A bronze equestrian reduction of 'Physical Energy'
After George Frederic Watts (British, 1817-1904) OM RA: A bronze equestrian reduction of 'Physical Energy'
After George Frederic Watts (British, 1817-1904) OM RA: A bronze equestrian reduction of 'Physical Energy'
After George Frederic Watts (British, 1817-1904) OM RA: A bronze equestrian reduction of 'Physical Energy'
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