My research project
Global Watts: Allegories for All (1880-1980)
The art of G. F. Watts is unique in the history of British art in having such a global reach during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries; his allegories offered a visual language that seemed to unite humanity and transcend national borders. Key works, such as Hope, Mammon, The Minotaur, Love and Life, Love and Death, Time, Death & Judgement, existing in multiple versions and reproduced both as photographs and art-prints, had currency all over the world and their meanings changing across locales.
This project covers the period c.1880-1980, charting the circulations and appropriations of Watts’s works over a century. The project will adopt a transnational and interdisciplinary approach to art and cultural history. The importance of this study lies in an assessment of how a global visual culture became possible through Watts's works.
Key research questions will be:
- How were values of global significance seen to be embodied in these images?
- How does this restructure our ideas of the international and the insular in Art History (especially British Art history) of this period?
- What were the limitations (geographic, class-based, interpretative) of this global visual culture?
- Is this an example of the diffusionist reach of European colonialism, or on the contrary, the creative appropriation of British culture by others?
The research will explore in depth the 'non-art' contexts for Watts, seeing the responses to reproductions and the political uses of his art as significant cultural history, rather than peripheral developments. Points of focus include Watts's imagery in relation to the European Symbolist movement in the 1890s, the Suffrage movement and the African-American Civil Rights Movement.
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.