My research project
Global Watts: Allegories for All (1880-1980)
This thesis examines the international reception of symbolist artworks by British Victorian artist, George Frederic Watts (1817-1904), in the global sphere between 1880 and 1980. It elucidates how the continued exhibition, circulation and dissemination of Watts’s allegories contributed to a series of political appropriations carried out by the movements, International Women’s Rights, Indian Independence and African American Civil Rights, which transform our understanding of the legacy of Watts’s art. This thesis aims to illuminate Asian, Black and White engagements in order to undiscipline and rebalance accounts of Watts’s artistic and social impact beyond Euro/Western-centric scholarly frameworks and public perceptions of Physical Energy in South Africa. From peaceful campaign to physical protest, private correspondence to professional journalism, fiction to homiletic literature, chapters analyse the plasticity of Watts’s symbolist language across three continents. In contextualising these engagements in global visual and material cultures, chapters show how Wattsian imagery became pervasive tools that helped fulfil Watts’s grand ambition of allegories for all. I argue that the circulation of Watts’s art did not simply radiate outwards from Britain, but reveals a map of multidirectional and interwoven connections representative of: the wider history of Victorian painting, the cultures engaging with and responding to artworks, and the peoples appropriating specific works for political emancipation. I use a transnational approach to map mobilities and examine unexplored or understudied visual and textual sources (in different languages) across British and international archives. In addressing art and activism, I engage with the fields of art history, literature, museum studies, critical heritage, celebrity studies, anthropology, and social or political histories. This thesis thus reframes the study of both Watts and his artworks in their global contexts in order to broaden our understandings of Victorian art, history and culture today.
Gursimran Oberoi is an AHRC, TECHNE and NPIF funded PhD student at the University of Surrey and Watts Gallery - Artists' Village where she studies under the direction of Dr Constance Bantman, Dr Nicholas Tromans, Dr Cicely Robinson and Prof Patricia Pulham. Her research project entitled ‘Global Watts: Allegories for All (1880-1980)’ provides a comprehensive assessment of the international importance and influence of British artist George Frederic Watts (1817-1904). Gursimran is Chair of the Doctoral and Early Career Research Committee (DECR) for the Association For Art History. She was previously the Assistant Director of the Centre for Victorian Studies, Royal Holloway, University of London.
In the media
- Transnational Art History
- Victorian Art, Literature and Culture
- Mobilities Studies and Material Culture
- Art Object Circulation
- Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries Networks, Collecting and Exchanges
- Art and Activism
- Social History
- Theories of Reading.
- Histories of English Literature.
Oberoi, G. (2021) 'Victorian Paintings Under Attack: The Earliest Act of Suffrage Iconoclasm (1913)', in Women’s Suffrage in Word, Image, Music and Drama: The Making of a Movement, ed. Christopher Wiley and Lucy Ella Rose, London: Routledge.
Oberoi, G. ‘Women’s Suffrage Attacks Against Art: Recontextualised’, Courtauld’s Gender and Sexuality Group, Online.
Oberoi, G. ‘Protesting Watts: The Origin of Suffrage Iconoclasm’, Watts Gallery Blog, 3rdApr, Online.
Oberoi, G. ‘G. F. Watts’s Artistic Networks’, BAVS Newsletter, Issue 18.3, pp. 16-7.
Selected Invited Lectures and Conferences
Conference Co-Organiser: DECR's New Voices, Sculpture & Literature, in partnership with Henry Moore Institute and University of Leeds, Association for Art History, 20-21st October.
Conference Co-Organiser: DECR's Summer Symposium, Global Britain: Decolonising Art's Histories, Association for Art History, 21st Jun, 9th Sept and 22nd Sept.
Conference Co-Organiser: DECR's Global New Voices, Association for Art History, 19th-20th Nov 2020.
Invited Roundtable Speaker: ‘William Morris’s “Strawberry Thief”’, (Digital Workshop) Objects in Focus: Decolonising Victorian Art and Design?, Race, Empire and the Pre-Raphaelites: Decolonising Victorian Art and Design through Museum Collections and Practice, 28th Jan 2021.
Invited speaker: ‘Global Watts: When Victorian Painting and Sculpture Meet International Communities’, New Directions in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Art (NDENCA), Digital Series, 25th Jan 2021.
Conference paper: ‘Recovering The Archive: G. F. Watts and The Victorians’ Futurity At Manchester Art Gallery, 1913’, Victorian Renewals, British Association for Victorian Studies (BAVS), University of Dundee, 28th-30th Aug 2019.
Conference paper: ‘Photography, Surveillance and Press: G. F. Watts and The Victorians’ Futurity At Manchester City Art Gallery, 1913’, Photography and Printed Matter – The Association for Art History’s Summer Symposium, University of St Andrews, 3rd-4th Jun 2019.
Invited speaker: ‘She Shall Be Called Woman: The Legacy and Controversy Surrounding G. F. Watts’s Art and the Women’s Suffrage Campaign’, Gender, Radicalism and Reform, Royal Holloway, University of London, 15th May 2019.
Roundtable: Archives, Archaeology, History and Collections, The Paul Mellon Centre Doctoral Researchers Network Summer Symposium 2019, Paul Mellon Centre, 10th May 2019.
Chair: ECR Keynote: Helen Goodman (Bath Spa) ‘Radicalism, Reform, and Victorian Insanity: A Medical Humanities Approach’, Radicalism and Reform in the Long Nineteenth-Century: The London Victorian Studies Colloquium, Royal Holloway, University of London, 27th Apr 2019.
Conference paper:‘She Shall Be Called Woman: The Legacy and Controversy Surrounding G. F. Watts’s Art and the Women’s Suffrage Campaign’, Victorian Futures, Victorian Interdisciplinary Studies Association of the Western United States, 8th-10th Nov 2018.
Conference paper: ‘She Shall Be Called Woman: Allegory and Feminism in G. F. Watts’s Art’Centennial Reflections on Women’s Suffrage and the Arts: Local, National, Transnational, International Conference, University of Surrey, 29th-30th Jun 2018.