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Is Banksy the New Watts?

Posted 12th October 2017
Watts Contemporary Gallery

Though there appears to be little in common between a contemporary graffiti artist and a 19th century Victorian painter, we think Bansky and G F Watts have more of a connection than meets the eye.

As a street artist whose works of political and social commentary have been found on bridges, streets and buildings in cities worldwide, Banksy carries on the ideals of G F Watts to have art be accessible to everyone. Banksy's works are visible in public spaces in London and Bristol, as many of Watts's works still are.

Watts was one of few Victorian artists to insert his works into the wider public consciousness by creating pieces specifically for public places. His mosaic of Time, Death and Judgement, now in St-Giles-in-the-Fields church in the West End, was placed outside St Jude's Church in Whitechapel, an area notorious for poverty and crime where people had little opportunity to engage with art. Watts also created several public sculptures late in his career.

Banksy also embodies Watts's aspiration to spread important political and social messages to the public through art. Both artists engage with ideas of anti-capitalism and human suffering, using symbols to communicate their grand ideas — Banksy using rats, apes and children and Watts using figures from mythology and the Bible.

Their painting styles may be vastly different, but you can't deny their overlapping values. What do you think? Is Banksy the new Watts?