'Poems painted on canvas'
In the 1880s Watts had the benefits of a reputation that was secure, and he was able to explore grand themes in his allegorical paintings or, as he described them, 'poems painted on canvas.' His artistic career was celebrated at the highest level, first with a retrospective exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1881-2 and then a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in 1884-5. His honours were equalled at home with a Doctor of Laws (LLD) from Cambridge and a Doctor of Civil Law (DCL) from Oxford, the robes of which he familiarly wore in later life.
Watts built a gallery extension onto his studio home at Little Holland House, Kensington, and opened it to the public from 2 to 6pm every weekend. His belief that art should be accessible to all was reflected in this project and in his support of schemes that took art into the poor areas of London through exhibitions and the creation of new galleries. During this time Watts painted some of his most memorable and iconic images, including Hope, which inspired artists and thinkers internationally, and Mammon, his great protest against the destructive motivating force of greed that was prevalent in society.