Posted 12th March 2019
Abbie Latham, Curatorial Trainee
In eager anticipation of the spring season, the first weeks of February saw the Watts Gallery Curatorial team undertake a rehang of the main gallery.
Returning from a short-term loan to the Palazzo Roverella in Rovigo, Satan (c.1847-48) now takes pride of place in the Isabel Goldsmith Patiño Gallery. Inspired by John Milton's Paradise Lost, this striking composition illustrates the new theme of the space: Subject & Symbolism. Throughout his long career, G F Watts frequently turned to a variety of classical, biblical and literary sources for creative inspiration.
Featuring a selection of paintings brought out from store, including Lady Godiva (c.1870s) and Progress (c.1902-4), this new display illuminates how Watts used his symbolic visual language to reinterpret familiar narratives, transforming them into his own profound representation of the world around him.
In the Graham Robertson Gallery, we bid farewell to the portrait of Virginia Dalrymple (1872) and in her place now resides the fresco-like composition of Virginia's mother and Watts's close friend, Sophia Dalyrmple (c.1851). The artist's innovative double portrait of Georgina Treherne (c.1855) has also returned to our picture store, and has been replaced by a portrait of the aristocratic Rachel Gurney. This portrait of Gurney echoes a description given by her sister Laura, in which Rachel is described as having a complexion that 'had the bloom on it of a pomegranate and the deep rose of a sun-kissed peach'.
While rehanging the gallery we took a closer look at the paintings we were removing, which enabled us to assess the condition of each work and provide them with preventative conservation cleaning. With a large ladder to hand we were also able to give Watts's large-scale sculpture, Aurora, a more thorough treatment. Regular conservation-standard cleaning of the collection prevents damage and deterioration, and at the same time preserves the visual and historical value of the collection.
Returning paintings to our store is never an easy or arbitrary decision. Nevertheless, rehanging the main gallery space provides us with the opportunity to showcase the wealth and breadth of the collection. We hope that, alongside our programme of exhibitions, regular rehangs in the main gallery will ensure that visitors have an engaging and dynamic experience each time they visit Watts Gallery – Artists' Village.