Posted 2nd June 2017
Watts Contemporary Gallery
Watts Gallery has closed its historic main gallery spaces for a complete transformation during the installation for our upcoming Watts 200 exhibition G F Watts: England's Michelangelo. This one-off exhibition will feature the best of Watts's paintings from museum and private collections across the UK and abroad.
Though visitors won't be able to see the historic spaces until the exhibition opens on 20 June, there is still plenty to see at the Artists' Village during the short closure, including the brilliant exhibitions Monumental Murals and A Life in Art as well as the Sculpture Gallery, Watts Studios and Watts Chapel.
Here are 7 alternative things to see at the Artists' Village during the installation.
1. Aldous Huxley's grave
Aldous Huxley was a writer and novelist, best known for his ground breaking dystopian novel Brave New World. Huxley was born in Godalming in 1894, and while he spent most of his life living in London, Oxford and Los Angeles, his ashes are interred in the family grave in Watts Cemetery.
2. Birdbath at Watts's memorial
G F Watts was an avid supporter of the protection of birds and he painted several works on the subject including A Dedication, which shows a weeping angel standing over slaughtered birds, and The Wounded Heron, which was his first work accepted for inclusion at the Royal Academy. This birdbath sits atop his grave in Watts Cemetery as a memorial to his love of animals.
Before he completed his masterpiece of equestrian sculpture, Physical Energy, Watts took on the subject of horses in several paintings. A Patient Life of Unrequited Toil — on display in Watts Studios — shows a serene grey horse standing within a meadow of flora local to Surrey and expresses Watts's sympathy for the suffering of animals. You can also see the original Physical Energy weather vane at Watts Studios.
4. Mary Watts's design for the Pelican Rug
Though forgotten by history for a period, Mary Watts's reputation as a designer and ceramicist has been revitalised in recent years. Visit the Mary Watts Gallery at Watts Studios to see her intricate and symbolic works, including the design for the Pelican Rug, sold by Liberty & Co., which is now in the main sitting room at Limnerslease.
5. Wrought iron gate designed by Mary Watts
Along with the interior ceiling decorations for Limnerslease, Mary Watts also designed this wrought iron gate, mounted on a wall next to the Watts Studios entrance. Though G F Watts's name takes pride of place, Mary's own initials — M S — can be seen at the top of the design.
6. Clytie in the sunken garden
Watts's original marble carving of Clytie was his only sculptural subject exhibited during his lifetime. It was praised retrospectively as a precursor of the New Sculpture movement, and when Watts sent George Eliot a cast in 1870, she called it 'The finest present I ever had in my life.' The marble version will be on display in England's Michelangelo and visitors can see a beautiful terracotta version of Clytie in the gardens in front of Watts Gallery.
7. Curiosities case in the Sculpture Gallery
The sheer scale of Watts's major sculptural works, Physical Energy and the Memorial to Alfred Tennyson, can often overwhelm visitors to the Sculpture Gallery. However, the wooden case along the wall of this gallery is home to an array of small-scale treasures from a colourful collection of Compton Pottery to plaster casts of arms, legs and hands to models for Tennyson's head.