Compton as a developing international centre for exploring the Arts & Crafts movement
The recent weeks seem to reflect the development in thinking that Compton could become an international centre for exploring the Arts & Crafts movement and for establishing a network of artists’ houses and studios. A visit was organized to Polenovo in Russia, a centre founded by the artist Vassily Polenov in 1892, which contains the artist’s house and studio, a chapel, a rural buildings which house the collection and where his sister Elena Polenova also produced carved furniture. The centre is now run by the Great Grand daughter of Vassily Polenov, and Watts Gallery has invited Natalya Polenova to join a discussion group with representatives from other centres of the Arts & Crafts in Poland, Ireland, Scotland to discuss an international conference on the Arts & Crafts in 2014.
The Chairman of Watts Gallery also visited New York, to reawaken the interest in G F Watts, who was the first living artist to have a retrospective in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. There was considerable interest in the effort to save the Watts house and studios and in particular, there was support for raising awareness of Mary Seton Watts and her role in the Arts & Crafts movement. A special tour for American patrons is being organized for May 2013 which will lead agroup to Compton, Isle of Wight and to London to see Watts’s work in the House of Commons, Lincolns Inn, Kensington Gardens, Tate and National Portrait Gallery. Giles Waterfield who has mounted a major exhibition of Artists’ houses and studios, and leads the group Old Houses and New Visions, is working with Watts Gallery on an international symposium in 2013 to discuss the parallels and findings for a network of Artists’ houses and studios across Europe and America.
Generosity and philanthropy have once again been hugely in evidence through the support that Watts Solent Swim has generated towards saving the Watts studios. I am immensely grateful to Helen Bowcock, who bravely swam the Solent with me on Saturday 6 October and to everyone who has supported this feat. Your support really makes a difference to showing to the Heritage Lottery Fund that there are so many of us who believe passionately that this last 19th-century artist’s studio which offers acentre for learning and apprenticeships for young people and those not in education, employment or training, must be saved. Thank you.