"That most detestable picture": the Reception of G. F. Watts’s The Spirit of Christianity in Australasia
Keywords:G. F. Watts, International Exhibitions, Art History, exhibition history, art criticism
George Frederick Watts’s Dedicated to all the Churches (1875), which became better known as The Spirit of Christianity, was possibly the most discussed picture shown at the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition held in Dunedin in 1889-90. In contrast, its appearance at Melbourne’s Centennial International Exhibition (1888-90) passed with barely a comment. This paper contrasts the reception of the painting in these contexts as part of a broader investigation of the expectation that this and other British paintings that were toured to Australasia for international exhibitions would play a significant role in the education and civilisation of exhibition visitors. In particular, it considers the role of “colonial taste,” and what the reception of Watts’s painting might tell us about the understanding of “High Art” by the “enlightened” versus the “common” colonist.
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