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Can These Bones Live?

Posted 9th January 2009
Watts Contemporary Gallery


The New Year seems a bit depressing with the Recession, although things remain positive at Watts Gallery. A number of people have told me that have visited the Watts exhibition at Guildhall Art Gallery that they find the painting Can These Bones Live? a really pertinent picture for today. In it Watts bewails the state of the nation through rich symbolism in the most wonderful autumnal colours, the colours of Dawn or Twilight.

Watts asked his viewers to make up their own mind. The central image is of a great English oak planted by King Alfred being weighed down and broken by a heavy golden pall, symbolic of, according to Watts, how materialism and greed were destroying a great nation. In the foreground are the bones which may or may not live again. When Watts was interviewed about it he said: ‘Yes. Oh! Yes, it is certainly pessimistic. But I have to be, for I can’t see how the tendency of our age, how its Mammonism, is to be overcome.’ Symbols representing gambling, murder and drunkenness abound and one might think this a very depressing picture, if it were not for the beauty, the poetic vision it portrays and the possibility of Hope present even in Watts’s most bleakest hour. A sign of the times? Judge for yourself. This week I have been working on a lecture on Watts and Mammon which is as much to do with spirituality as with economics. I will be giving this as a local lecture on 4th February and at the Watts Symposium on 26th and 27th February in London. There are some very interesting lectures being given at the Symposium and I recommend to everyone with even a vague interest in G F Watts.