Directors Blog: Preparing for the Ellen Terry exhibition and Watts at Dusk late night opening
Preparing for the first Watts at Dusk evening, one of three late nights that we are offering at the Gallery, was a reminder of the fact that we are a Gallery in the heart of a Village. We were informed that a swarm of bees were looking at settling in the gable above the Sculpture Gallery. Fortunately Physical Energy, the model of Watts’s monumental sculpture which is on show in the Sculpture Gallery, frightened the swarm away! We have also had a number of visitors who have brought their dogs. Situated as we are alongside the Pilgrims’ Way, the Watts Gallery Estate is a perfect place for stopping mid- dog walk for a cup of tea and cake. However, we now have to ensure that dog lovers keep their pets on a leash!
There is now only two weeks left of the Ruskin exhibition. The expression ‘bijou’ exhibition has been used in reviews of John Ruskin, Photographer and Draughtsman. Since our original aim when we set out on restoring Watts Gallery and planning exhibitions was to create small jewel-like exhibitions which attracted national interest, it is very pleasing to have this adjective applied to the John Ruskin exhibition. Plans are now hotting up for the next exhibition Ellen Terry A Painter’s Actress. While the camellias were in full bloom outside the John George Archive and Study room, it was a reminder of the most famous painting of the actress, by G F Watts, Choosing which depicts the actress smelling the perfume of a camellia (which of course has no smell) and in her other hand clutching a small bunch of violets which have a strong odour. Why we are attracted to the big and brash, when the small and less obvious might carry greater meaning!
The Watts Gallery Estate has suffered over the past four months from work on Down Lane which took place to manage the drainage of a couple of springs further up the lane, and to create a balancing pond outside the front gate of the Gallery. The ‘pond’ seems to have turned into a crater for the last few weeks and I am grateful to all our visitors, patrons, friends, neighbours and volunteers who have put up with the unsightly work area. To contrast with this carbuncle, inside the gates, the flower beds are looking magnificent. We are so grateful to the Garden volunteers who make this possible.
Watts and Mary Watts were great philanthropists. Just last week, we had another example of innovative philanthropy. The Women in Private Equity held their first ever fundraising event at Watts Gallery. Over 100 people journeyed to Compton from London, to enjoy an evening of murder mystery and who responded magnificently to a call to support the Second Chance scheme to engage disadvantaged women through the Watts Gallery Art for All learning and outreach programme. We feel immensely honoured to have this support and to meet some new philanthropists who can begin to see how giving gives a good feel and even changes lives.