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#VolunteerVoice: Anne Jewkes

Posted 8th February 2018
Watts Contemporary Gallery

Beyond 28 Seconds: Don't Rush Art

These days, we're so impatient. We want everything now, all at once. And it seems our approach to art is no different.
In 2001, a study at the Metropolitan Museum of Art discovered that on average we spend no more than 28 seconds considering a painting or sculpture.

I'm a Volunteer at Watts Gallery - Artists' Village and I see George Frederic Watts's paintings and sculptures every time I'm on duty. You might think I'd lose interest as each work becomes more and more familiar. Weirdly, the opposite is true and I can confirm that repeated looking makes the work more interesting, not less. Watts's artworks continue to reveal over time. And it's quite exciting discovering new detail I might not have been aware of a week or even a month before.

George Frederic Watts was never shy of tackling big subjects. He begins his career quite modestly in Italy creating landscapes and a number of flirtatious paintings of his host's wife, Lady Augusta Holland. On his return to London, Watts noticeably ups his game and addresses, amongst other things, the increasing number of women committing suicide along the Thames, the tragedy of the Irish potato famine, avarice, gambling and child prostitution. He depicts murdered adulterous lovers and paints hope, followed by hopelessness as well as time, death and judgement. And finally Watts considers astrology, astronomy and spiritualism as he spirals upwards into the stratosphere until there's nothing left to paint! Indeed, Mary Watts often spoke of her husband painting the unpaintable!

Phew! When you've stopped swirling round, steady yourself and pop downstairs into a gentle world of starched white linen, daffodils, butterflies and, strangely, no men! Helen Allingham's water colour paintings depict Ruskin's late-Victorian ideal of motherhood as 'the centre of order, the balm of distress and the mirror of beauty'. There is no hint of Watts's more torturous subject matter. Her paintings are delicate, precise, detailed interpretations of country living with white bonnets and maypoles, tea and cake in the parlour and donkey rides on the beach.

All in all, I guarantee you will find much to ponder beyond 28 seconds!

See you in the Gallery!

Anne Jewkes
Volunteer at Watts Gallery - Artists' Village