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Time, Death and Judgement

George Frederic Watts1870/1897

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral

Time, Death and Judgement by George Frederic Watts (1817-1904) is a very powerful painting, which is regarded to be both timeless and classless in its message. The painting depicts Time as a young man who walks with Death, who is a mother. Time faces forward to show nothing can deter him from his course, while Death holds flowers she has picked indiscriminately to represent that death can claim anyone. Behind them is Judgement, who is shown be impartial to who she judges by covering her eyes with her arm. The message is seen as universal as no one can escape Time, Death and Judgement.

The large artwork shows the significant influence of Greek sculpture upon Watts, who was a prominent Victorian painter who was dubbed by some ‘England’s Michelangelo’. He was associated with the Symbolist movement, and famously once said, “I paint ideas, not things.”

The version dedicated to St Paul’s Cathedral is one of three well-known versions made by Watts, the other two being at the Tate Gallery and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. There are few differences between the three and any that exist are due to surface detail rather than composition.

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