Sunday, 14 April 2013

The Watts Gallery Experience: a National Gallery in the Heart of a Village

What a wonderful experience is to be had at the Watts gallery in the village of Compton near Guildford. The Gallery celebrates the work of GF Watts, a critically acclaimed artist, a poet-painter who could 'preach eternal truths and provoke social reform'. He lived from 1817-1904 and produced not only several different strands of themes to his paintings, but some massive sculptures on display at the Watts Gallery in a purpose built Sculpture Gallery.
The Watts Gallery first opened in 1904 to house the work of GF Watts; it has recently been restored to the original decorative scheme. The information booklets that accompany each room and give background to the paintings are among the briefest and best written.
Until the 9th of June, there is also an exhibition of work by the pre-Raphaelite painter Eleanot Fortescue-Brickdale which is well worth catching if you can do so.
Here are a few photos of the Watts Gallery:
 This is the outside of the gallery.

And above the Richard Jefferies Gallery, I got very excited by this until I discovered this RJ worked at the Watts Gallery.

This is an example of one of the many pot designs made by Mary Watts, it's called a 'Season' pot and it's circa 1905. I bought a book entitled '' Archibald Knox and Mary Seton Watts 'Modern Celtic Art' Garden Pottery' ', it's by Veronica Franklin Gould ISBN 0 - 9515811-4-7.
The book gives a fascinating account of not only garden pots, but the making of and designs used in the chapel described below.

The second part of the visit was to the  Watts Chapel, described as an Arts and Crafts Masterpiece, the Chapel stands on Budburrow Hill about 300 yards from the Watts Gallery, it is a Grade 1 listed building which was consecrated in 1898 and continues to be a working cemetery chapel.
Mary Watts, GF Watts wife, was the artistic force behind the design, building and decoration of the chapel.

Here's the chapel as approached from the path.

 Above and below, detail of the outside of the chapel, two of four panels.

 Above close up of part of the Chapel doorway- Symbol of Renewal, 1895-8
And below even more detail of another part of the door.

 And here is the door you enter to access the circular chapel:

 If the outside of the Chapel is splendid, the inside takes one's breath away: as the guide book says 'This extraordinary building is a wonderful fusion of Byzantine and Celtic models'.
Below part of the decoration of the inside of the building.

 Above detail of a flower inside the chapel.
And outside again:

 Look at the headstone above.

A wonderfully designed cross above and below two of the terracotta seats.
To find out more, visit:

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