Mark Bills and Barbara Bryant, G.F. Watts - Victorian Visionary, 2008, p.190
According to the artist’s wife ‘the giant figures… were suggested to him when looking at the cracks and stains on the dirty plaster of a wall. He saw the whole composition mentally, and carried it out years afterwards.’ He began the first version of The Titans (Watts Gallery, Compton) in 1869 and worked upon it until 1875 when it was exhibited in Manchester. A smaller version was among Watts’ most treasured possessions and was given by his widow to the Fitzwilliam Museum in 1916. A version painted in the 1890s was sold to a collector in Liverpool, James Smith (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool).
During the 1870s and 1880s Watts used the composition and subject of The Titans as the basis for the portion on the right side of a large painting entitled Chaos (versions at Tate and Watts Gallery, Compton) depicting the primordial creation of the earth as related in Hesiod’s Theogony and Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
The powerful musculature of the figures of the Titans reflects Watts’ study of the Parthenon marbles, particularly the reclining figure of Dionysus. The massive proportions and contours of the nude bodies create the slopes and peaks of huge mountains.
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