6 March 2018 -
3 June 2018
This 'forgotten' collection, belonging to the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (LBHF), brings to Watts Gallery - Artists' Village an array of later Pre-Raphaelite paintings and drawings, including important works by Frederic Leighton, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, John William Waterhouse, Edward Burne-Jones and Albert Moore. This will be the Collection's first museum showing since Watts Gallery Trust undertook its conservation in 2017/2018.
Our exhibition is based on a collaboration with the LBHF.
About Cecil French
Cecil French (1879-1953) was born in Dublin and came to England to study at the Royal Academy, intending to become an artist. A passionate follower of the Symbolist movement in British art, French admired Burne-Jones, who died in 1898, and the qualities of mystery coupled with careful figure-drawing that characterised much British art at this period. Although he did exhibit in London, French never became a professional artist. He wrote poetry, under the influence of his friend and fellow Irishman W B Yeats, as well as some art criticism. But neither did he become a recognised writer. Instead, he lived quietly on Station Road in the London suburb of Barnes, slowly building up a very distinguished collection of the art he loved by later Victorians and those modern British artists who had maintained the values of their British predecessors, rather than being seduced by French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.
French remains a mysterious figure – someone who devoted his life to a romantic cause, championing a kind of art against which the tide of history seemed to have turned.
When French died in 1853, he made careful plans for his treasures, working with an advisor who he completely trusted: Rowland Alston.
Alston (1895-1958) was the Curator of the Watts Gallery. Like French he had aspired to be an artist, but following service in the First World War (during which he was badly injured at the Battle of the Somme) he had come to Compton in Surrey to work with Mary Watts. Alston ran the museum created in Watts's honour until his death in the late 1950s. Alston tried to allocate French's works to places that had some sort of connection with them.
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