What to see this week: G. F. Watts

Country Life Every Week - - Athena -

G. F. Watts: Eng­land’s Michelan­gelo is at Watts Gallery, Down Lane, Comp­ton, Sur­rey, un­til Novem­ber 26 (01483 810235; www.watts­gallery.org.uk) Cel­e­brat­ing the bi­cen­te­nary of the birth of Ge­orge Fred­eric Watts (1817–1904), this ex­hi­bi­tion brings to­gether some of the most im­pres­sive works cre­ated by the once revered Vic­to­rian painter and sculp­tor, who ex­hib­ited be­side Turner when young and in­flu­enced Pi­casso in old age. The gallery that he and his wife, the artist Mary Se­ton Watts, cre­ated at Comp­ton is usu­ally hung with its own Watts col­lec­tion, but this show brings in loans from ma­jor sources to demon­strate the full im­pact of the artist’s vi­sion­ary power and orig­i­nal­ity.

It di­vides into three prin­ci­pal sec­tions: his mon­u­men­tal prophetic works, the more in­ti­mate por­trai­ture and his al­le­gor­i­cal and Sym­bol­ist paint­ings. Colour, cos­mos and celebrity re­main key themes across a re­mark­able stylis­tic spec­trum, rang­ing from the ex­quis­ite Pre-raphaelite and Aes­thetic Move­ment de­tail of por­traits such as Jane Se­nior (1858) to Ex­pres­sion­is­tic pri­mor­dial land­scapes such as Af­ter the Del­uge (about 1885–91). The Art of G. F. Watts by cu­ra­tor Ni­cholas Tro­mans is pub­lished by Paul Hol­ber­ton (£17.95).

Also on dis­play are some of Watts’s sculp­tures; ‘Mon­u­men­tal Mu­rals’, show­ing frag­ments and stud­ies from his fresco cy­cles; and ‘A Life in Art’, il­lus­trated with some of his finest draw­ings (both un­til Novem­ber 5). The Wattses’ legacy at Comp­ton in­cludes the Sculp­ture Gallery; their house Lim­n­er­slease, with Watts’s stu­dio, a con­ser­va­tion gallery and small mu­seum; and the ceme­tery chapel and pot­tery build­ings de­signed and built by Mary. In Oc­to­ber, a bronze re­cast­ing of Watts’s mag­nif­i­cent eques­trian sculp­ture, Phys­i­cal En­ergy, will be sited in the wooded grounds.

A per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of the Big Bang: Sower of the Sys­tems (1902)

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