Posted 18th November 2011
Watts Contemporary Gallery
The autumn is the time to enjoy Watts Gallery and to visit Compton. There was a good reason that G.F. and Mary Watts chose Compton as their autumn and winter residence. The colour of the trees, and the walk along the leaf strewn paths, the smoke from bonfires and early evening fires meandering in the sky, provide a wonderful prelude to entering Watts Gallery to enjoy the rich creations that Watts achieved during his time at his house and studio in Compton - Limnerslease. The paintings Progress, Sunset on the Alps, and Can these bones live? all depict the rich golden autumn colours which inspired their creator.
Today the Gallery is full of young people drawing from the collection – Found Drowned and Hope are particular favourites. It hardly seems bearable or believable that Hope, the wonderful version of Watts’s iconic painting, which has so generously been loaned to Watts Gallery by a private owner, leaves the Gallery on 27 November. This will be a dark day. However, we should look forward to the exhibition Liquid Light which is being staged by Watts Gallery’s artist in residence, Deborah Gourlay. This opens to the public on 29 November.
Yesterday we staged a symposium on An Artist’s Gleanings: G.F. Watts and Mary Watts at Limnerslease. Attended by a large crowd, we learned that Sir Ernest George, the eminent Arts & Crafts architect who was commissioned by the Wattses to build their home on the hill opposite the land where they subsequently built Watts Gallery, built a total of 260 buildings, including Southwark Bridge, houses at Port Sunlight and Buscot Park. It was a great honour to have an excellent paper given by the Chairman of the Victorian society, Professor Hilary Grainger, and author of a book on Sir Ernest George. Those who attended the Symposium were given a tour of Limnerslease and visited Alexander Creswell, the watercolourist who is currently occupying Watts’s Great Studio. Every participant said “you must save this house and studio for the nation”. We must, but we need help. We are very grateful to those who have already supported the Limnerslease Project and we are honoured to have the royal patronage of HRH The Prince of Wales, and to have Antony Gormley as the Arts Patron. We need to raise £4m by December 2012 if we are to save Great Studio as the first part of the rescue of the whole of Limnerslease to ensure that Watts’s house and studio can be enjoyed by future generations.
We were absolutely delighted that we reached our 28,000 visitor to Watts Gallery this week. The positive reports in the visitors’ book continue to give a glowing account of people’s enjoyment of Watts Gallery and I would like to thank once again all those people who did so much to save this hidden jewel. Some visitors ask us why we do not do more for Mary Watts – the answer – Limnerslease!