An Introduction to #Watts200

Back to News

Posted 6th January 2017

An Introduction to #Watts200 by our Director Perdita Hunt.

'The aims of art are not different from the aims of life in general – which should be to add as much as possible to the good of the world.'

G F Watts OM RA

This year Watts Gallery Trust celebrates a milestone – the 200th anniversary of its founder's birth on 23 February 1817.

Watts was given the names George Frederic because 23 February was the birthday of George Frederick Handel. Watts's father was a musician.

The rise and fall and rise again of George Frederic Watts, one of the most famous painters of the 19th Century, has been in tune with the artist's prophecy 'I will not be recognised after my death and perhaps not for a further 100 years!'

Today, Watts's time has come. Thanks to the generosity of so many, including lottery players throughout the UK, the Bicentenary coincides with the opening up of the Watts Artists' Village. For today's visitor to Compton, there is now the opportunity to understand Watts in a fuller context – not just as an artist, but as a social reformer, a philanthropist, a man of ideas and a powerful communicator. The exhibitions this year – Monumental Murals, and England's Michelangelo will offer fresh insights into Watts's relentless crusade to communicate through art, to find and explore new artistic genres and to fulfil his role as painter for the nation.

Ptolemy Dean, conservation architect and presenter of BBC Restoration Village said: 'There is something very special about this place, something unique'. In talking about Physical Energy, Watts's monumental sculpture, Antony Gormley observed: 'Watts was an idealist. He had the highest aspirations for art and for his own contribution to it. However, he was an idealist, an idealist who believed absolutely in the power of art to transform life and “art for all" a long time before the arrival of Gilbert and George.'

Our aim in the Watts 200 year is to fulfil Watts's vision of Art for All, and through this to add good to the world offering a powerful and innovative programme, in order to continue our mission at Watts Gallery – Artists' Village to transform people's lives.