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Watts Gallery
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Physical Energy

 The Sculpture

George Frederic Watts OM RA (1817-1904)
Physical Energy
1884 - 1904, gesso grosso model

Key Facts

Once safely established as a subject painter and portraitist Watts turned seriously to sculpture in his fifties. He wanted to create large public works to be displayed in easy to visit places. This full-scale equestrian model symbolises energy, continual motion, and ambition, suspended in time. Watts never trained in sculpture, but took inspiration from the British Museum’s Parthenon Marbles by Pheidias. Watts used gesso grosso, a mixture of plaster, glue size and chopped hemp, which could be modelled when it was soft, and carved when hard. Three full-size bronze casts of Physical Energy exist in London, Cape Town and Harare.

Discussion Points

  • Why is the figure raising his right hand and what is he looking at?

  • How tall is this sculpture?

  • Does it represent a real person? Who was he? Why is he naked?

  • What is the horse doing?

Activities

  • Find another painting or sculpture in the gallery where Watts uses a figure on horseback and sketch it.

  • In the gallery look for other models of figures, such as the models based on the Parthenon Frieze in the British Museum.

  • Look carefully to find evidence of the materials used to make the models. List all the different materials that can be used to make sculptures.

  • Find differently textured materials from around your school and record them by taking photographs of the different surfaces or making texture rubbings.

Find Out More:

The Parthenon Marbles, British Museum, London
Reduction by Thomas Wren, after G.F. Watts, Physical Energy (Richard Jefferies Gallery)
Second bronze of Physical Energy, 1914, Kensington Gardens, London

 Click here to download Teacher's Resources Sheet