Watts Studios is a new museum space in the fully restored east wing of Limnerslease, the home of G F and Mary Watts. The Studios opened in January 2016, bringing back the Wattses' vision of Art for All and adding a new and exciting element to the Artists' Village.
In the G F Watts Studio, the smell of oils and varnish fills the air, and desks are strewn with letters in the artist's own hand. Around the room are unfinished canvases displayed on easels or suspended from the rafters in this vast cathedral-like space. The recreation of Watts's studio transports the visitor back to his workspace, allowing them to explore the artistic processes of one of the 19th century's most eminent artists.
An entire gallery is devoted to the work of Mary Watts, displaying works of art never seen before alongside pieces delicately and painstakingly restored to their former glory, including the Aldershot Panels. Mary's personal thoughts and notes are present in the form of archival diaries, notebooks and films giving an insight into her life and life in the local community.
The Compton Gallery creates links between the Wattses and the local area, with a specially commissioned film charting the heritage of Limnerslease and its national cultural importance and introducing visitors to the Arts & Crafts house on the hill. Archival material and paintings of the Surrey landscape help complete the story of the Wattses' Artists' Village in Compton.
The Studio Home
There was much public interest in artists' studios during the 19th century, and along with famous friends and notable sitters, journalists regularly came to Compton to experience Signor at work in his studio. It was noted that Watts's studio was 'entirely given up to work', unlike the richly decorated studios of his peers. Its atypical orientation — the large windows face south — is attributed to the fact that Watts painted here during the darker winter months and sought to maximise daylight.
'In other studios, the picture at which the artist is working there and then, and perhaps a few finished specimens of his art, are one of the attractions only. The others are beautiful furniture, stuffs, objects of art, etc. In Mr Watts's two studios there is absolutely nothing of this sort. Instead you have any number of pictures, of all shapes and sizes, in various states of incompleteness — which are at least as suggestive as finished pictures can be — and all the artist's own work. Which studios, do you think, are the more interesting?' — Hulda Friederichs in The Young Woman, December 1895