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Is Grayson Perry the New Watts?

Posted 2nd November 2017
Watts Contemporary Gallery

G F Watts was a sombre Symbolist painter, portraitist and sculptor. Grayson Perry is a flamboyant, cross-dressing ceramicist and concept artist. What do the two have in common? More than initially meets the eye.

Grayson Perry and G F Watts are both uniquely diverse artists creating across several mediums. Through Perry is most known for his ceramic vases, he also works in printmaking, drawing, embroidery, film and textiles. Watts worked as a painter, draughtsman, muralist and sculptor, earning him the nickname 'England's Michelangelo' from his friend and fellow artist Frederic Leighton.

Both Watts and Perry are fascinated by artistic tradition, with Watts beginning his career as a muralist, designing and creating frescoes for public and private buildings. In many of his paintings Watts offered reinterpretations of Biblical mythology and Classics, drawing on the draughtsmanship of Michelangelo in creating his human figures. Perry draws on Greek pottery and folk art in many of his designs and uses a traditional coiling method for his ceramics.

Perry also continues Watts's tendency to experiment with personas in his art and personal life. Though Perry does so through cross-dressing in women's clothing and adopting the feminine alter-ego 'Claire', Watts too tried out various identities as seen is his various self-portraits which show him as a Romantic poet, a Renaissance intellectual and a Titian-esque man of high art. For many years Watts was known as 'Signor' due to his serious nature and tendency to wear flowing red robes and a skullcap as his daily costume.

Though their art is very different, you can't deny the similarities between Watts and Grayson Perry. What do you think? Is Grayson Perry the new Watts?