What to see this week: G. F. Watts
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)