WATTS Magazine Issue 1 Autumn 2007 ÂŁ1
Victorian Artists in Photographs Antony Gormley on Physical Energy Found Drowned A Masterpiece Revived Friends, Events & Booking Form 1
Dates For Your Diary
Supporters Christmas Party 11 December 2007 (see page 18 for more details)
Watts Gallery is deeply grateful to all its donors and in particular would like to thank its very generous benefactors:
Victorian Artists in Photographs: G. F. Watts and his World Selections from The Rob Dickins Collection Until 31 December 2007
Esmée Fairbairn Foundation The Deborah Loeb Brice Foundation Garfield Weston Foundation John Ellerman Foundation Wolfson Foundation Guildford Borough Council The George John and Sheilah Livanos Charitable Trust Richard Ormond CBE Professor Rob Dickins CBE Christopher Forbes Peter Harrison Foundation The Robert Gavron Charitable Trust An Anonymous Donor David Pike The Pilgrim Trust The Isabel Goldsmith Patino Foundation The Art Fund The Fenton Arts Trust Artist in Residence scheme and the Winsor & Newton Watts Painting Prize supported by
Victorian Artists in Photographs brings us a step closer to a distant age and offers us the opportunity to see the faces, homes and families of artists whose work is so popular. This is a chance to stand face to face with the eminent painters, poets and authors of the day and of course George Frederic Watts and his circle. A touring exhibition by Watts Gallery Guildhall Art Gallery, London 7 January – 13 April 2008 The Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate 26 April – 13 July 2008 Peter Monkman: Changing Face 12 January – 9 March 2008 Monkman questions the notion of a fixed identity of the face through painting portraits of people, young and old, from a variety of social and cultural backgrounds. The exhibition presents portraits of students from Wrenn School, a Comprehensive in Northamptonshire, Charterhouse, a Private school in Surrey and archival portraits from Charterhouse. Peter Monkman is Director of Art at Charterhouse.
Contact Us Watts Gallery Down Lane Compton Surrey GU3 1DQ
Watts Gallery: A Journey of Hope 1 April – 31 August 2008
01483 810235 email@example.com www.wattsgallery.org.uk
Director - Perdita Hunt Curator - Mark Bills Marketing Manager - Andrew Churchill G F Watts and Mary Watts left a legacy of works which Head of Learning - Helen Hienkens-Lewis have inspired generations of visitors to Watts Gallery Assistant Curator - Julia Dudkiewicz and some of the most influential people of the last 100 Visitor Services Manager - Katharine Otley years: from Nelson Mandela, who had a print of Hope Appeal Co-ordinator - Christine Tebbot on his cell wall throughout his imprisonment, to Pablo PA to the Director - Tyra Stoodley-Dowty Picasso who used the same painting as a direct influAccounts Assistant - Sue Miller ence on one of his most celebrated pictures, Blue GuiEstate Assistants - Malcolm and Christine Hodgson tar. This is the last opportunity to see the paintings and Shop Buyer - Rebecca Macpherson sculptures of G. F. Watts and the work of Mary Watts Curatorial Adviser - Hilary Underwood and Compton Pottery in the Watts Gallery setting for Volunteer Friends Co-ordinator - Peggy Kearns nearly two years, as restoration begins in the Autumn. Volunteer Friends Events Co-ordinator - Anne Vardon Volunteer Stewards Co-ordinator - Sheila Dobson Volunteer Patrons Co-ordinator - Jane Short 2
A Watershed for Watts Gallery Perdita Hunt, Director Watts Gallery is facing a watershed in its history. It is either faced with closure or with securing its long-term future. The Watts Gallery Hope Project aims to secure the gallery and its collection for more people to enjoy for the next hundred years.
© English Heritage / Boris Baggs
Part of this process has been devising a business plan to secure the long-term future of the Gallery. As with many restoration projects, the running costs of the Gallery, once refurbishment is completed, will increase. The reason that the Gallery faces this watershed is that the original endowment and income has not met the annual running costs and the need for conservation and restoration. To avoid the Gallery falling into a another downward spiral, Trustees have decided to introduce charging for admission. The original charitable objects (1905) of Watts Gallery stated that the Trustees could charge on three days a week at the cost of a shilling! Early photos of the Gallery show a turnstile at the front door. Although the Gallery was founded on the principle of Art for All, the Gallery was established on a viable commercial basis by its founders. Recently, in developing the Watts Gallery Hope Project, Trustees have been investigating the possibility of saving the Gallery further costs through not having to pay VAT on the building project. The result of this investigation is a recommendation that Watts Gallery should register for VAT which would produce net savings to the Gallery on the Hope Project in the region of £250,000. The recommendation also makes clear that in order to achieve these savings, it is essential that the Gallery introduces admission charging before the restoration work commences.
we shall also be reworking our opening hours. The Gallery’s admission charge on re-opening will be more than this charge, but there will be more on offer to the visitor. As a supporter of the Gallery, I do hope you will share the view that this represents an important saving for the Gallery. Many visitors coming to the Gallery already offer to pay on first entering. For those regular visitors who support the Gallery, we hope that they will join the Friends scheme (£20 per year) and enjoy free admission throughout the year.
For this reason, the Trustees have decided that admission charges should be introduced from 1 April 2008. In close consultation with volunteers and Watts Gallery Friends, we are setting the charge at £3 with free admission for children up to 16. On Tuesdays we shall be having our Art for All day where the nominal charge is £1. In introducing this change,
Please contact me if you have any concerns or queries about this proposal. As a key supporter of the Gallery your opinion is important.
Museums Association Decision Changes to the Opening Hours On Monday 22 October in Glasgow, there was a historic decision. The members of the Museums Association (a membership body made up of gallery and museum staff) voted for a change in its ethical code to enable museums and galleries, in particular circumstances (there are five clear conditions), to sell works from their non-core collection for the benefit of the long-term care of the core collection. Watts Gallery has often been cited in the discussions on this change, and it is encouraging that there is support from the museum community for our proposal to dispose of two works: The Triumph of Love by Burne-Jones and Jasmine by Albert Moore. Over the next two months the Gallery will offer these works to public collections and failing an appropriate sale, will take them to auction.
With the introduction of entrance fees from 1 April 2008 (see the Directorâ€™s article on page 3), the Trustees feel it is necessary to change the opening hours to make it easier for people to enjoy the Gallery. From 1 April 2008 the Gallery will be open: Tuesday to Saturday 10 - 5pm Sundays and Bank Holidays 1 - 5pm Closed on Mondays
Physical Energy Party in Kensington Gardens enhanced by the participation of two mounted police and four dancers from Surrey Community Dance. We are grateful to Julia Peyton Jones, Director of the Serpentine Gallery for hosting our visit, and to the Friends of the Royal Parks. We also thank Adam Prideaux from Blackwall Green for sponsoring the evening and to Pattie Boyd and Cherry Gillespie for hosting the party.
On a beautiful September evening, over 180 guests gathered at the Pavilion next to the Serpentine Gallery to celebrate one hundred years since the siting of Physical Energy in Kensington Gardens. The Duke of Gloucester unveiled a new plaque which refers to the model being at Watts Gallery, and the Deputy Mayor of London, and the Mayor of Godalming were present to support the event. Later in the evening, Antony Gormley described Watts as a modern artist, who moved sculpture from the memorial into the contemporary. The celebratory event was greatly
Pictured left to right are: Pattie Boyd and Cherry Gillespie, who co-hosted the party; Perdita Hunt, Watts Gallery Director with Sandy Nairne, National Portrait Gallery Director; Prof. Rob Dickins CBE, donor and Trustee of Watts Gallery and Antony Gormley, sculptor.
Freshwater by Virginia Woolf
Watts Symposium 2007 “Excellent” is the consensus of opinion from delegates who attended this year’s Watts Symposium, G. F. Watts: Art & Social Concerns. The two-day conference, which took place in Compton and at The Courtauld Institute in London, brought together experts in the fields of Victorian art, history and literature to consider the impact of key social issues on the work of Watts and his contemporaries. Commenting on the event, Mark Bills, Curator of Watts Gallery said: “Watts’s treatment of human tragedy in his series of Social Realist paintings provides us with a fascinating insight into the artist’s personal feelings. The Symposium highlighted how Watts was not alone in many of these concerns and shed new light on how these responses were manifest in artistic movements and initiatives created at this time.” Plans for the third Watts Symposium are already underway.
Gary Hope, who played G. F. Watts
There were three full houses for the staging of Freshwater by Virginia Woolf in October. The New Farnham Repertory Actors’ Company put on a fine performance leaving the audience in fits of laughter and Mark Bills, Curator of Watts Gallery, wondering whether it was right that he should be laughing so heartily at his own subject! The humour was all of the ribbing type rather than the vicious and there is little doubt that Woolf did not see the similarities between the Victorian cultural elite and her own circle, the Bloomsbury Group. Our thanks to Dr. Desna Greenhow for her work in arranging the performances.
Watts Gallery is extremely grateful to The Courtauld Institute of Art, The Derek Hill Foundation and John George for supporting the 2007 Watts Symposium.
The Hope Project update
Introducing Anna Readman and Farewell to Sandy Curry
The Watts Gallery Hope Project is making good progress. We have submitted our Stage D scheme to Guildford Borough Council for planning permission. Following a third public consultation in October, we hopefully have addressed most concerns. Plans are progressing for touring the collection to London and then, hopefully, to the United States. Invitations to tender have been sent out to painting conservators, and we will be seeking quotes from conservators of drawings and sculpture. We are also assessing different locations for storage.
Anna Readman, In fundraising we are now £1.8m away from our target. Fast Food, 2007 If with the sale of the two pictures (see page 4) we © the artist raise £1m, this leaves us with an £800,000 shortfall. It is with great pleasure that we announce the selection We have to prove that we can raise this amount when of Anna Readman as The Fenton Arts Trust Artist in we apply to the Heritage Lottery Fund for Stage 2 Residence 2007/08. Anna was also the winner of the funding in February. Winsor & Newton Watts Painting Prize 2007. She takes over from Sandy Curry, whose amazing year at Watts We are immensely grateful for the support we are Gallery culminated in a very well received exhibition of receiving from Trusts and Foundations and from her work held in the Sculpture Gallery in October. individuals supporting us as Patrons, or Adopters We wish both Sandy and Anna all the very best. or as Friends.
A Masterpiece Revived Found Drowned - a scene from London’s ‘Bridge of Sighs’ by Mark Bills, Curator of Watts Gallery
George Frederic Watts, Found Drowned, 1848-1850
An important painting in the Watts Gallery collection has recently been conserved as part of the Adopt a Watts scheme. Mark Bills explores the history of the painting and its conservation before David Pike, who adopted the work, explains why it was important to him.
When Watts returned from Italy to London in 1847 it must have seemed to him a move from Arcadia to Babylon. His aristocratic lifestyle with Lord and Lady Holland in their Italian villa was replaced with a less than salubrious dwelling off the Edgware Road. The grand Italian manner and mural paintings of great historical events, of which Watts was a master, were being pilloried by the press as irrelevant to the masses. Furthermore, the Houses of Parliament decorations, for which Watts won prizes, were even seen as immoral through its government funding taking away public funds from the more urgent needs of growing poverty in the metropolis. Watts’s name was intimately associated with these schemes and was openly mocked, George Cruikshank, Guy Fawkes treated Classically, 1843. Punch writing “England will never know what High Cruikshank highlights the absurdity of scale and Art really is till it has seen Punch’s own historical stilted classicism applied to British history picture, thirty five feet by ten, painted by the aid of a paintings designed for the Palaces of Westminster. ladder… as full of MICHAEL ANGELO-drawing as WATTS.” And more famously Thackeray under the pseudonym of Michael Angelo Titmarsh mocked Watts directly through a thinly veiled character who painted: “a picture of ‘Alfred in the Neat-herd’s cottage’, seventy-two feet by forty-eight; (an idea of the gigantic size and Michael-Angelesque proportions of this picture may be formed, when I state a muffin, of which the outcast king is spoiling the baking, is two by three feet in diameter)…” Watts’s response was to paint a series of four paintings, Found Drowned, The Song of the Shirt, Under a Dry Arch and The Irish Famine, now in Watts Gallery, which depicted the poverty and its tragic implications in London and Ireland, with its devastating potato famine. “Pictures, like my old woman under the archway,” he later wrote, “…has no beauty but it has purpose. It, I hope, arouses pity for human refuse.”
It was a low-point in his career and he felt that his ambitions had come to nothing, writing bitterly to Miss Duff Gordon, “You talk of Fame! I am no longer to be taken in by such pretence…”. Such criticisms must have affected Watts very deeply, not in the least because of how upset he felt about rising poverty. Watts, like all Londoners, saw the poverty around him (estimated in The Times that around one in twenty of the city’s population were homeless) and felt a profound guilt. “Objects of distress,” he wrote “that have come upon my observation in the last two or three days have induced me to reflect seriously that I have no right to throw away any means of being useful… I think every poor shivering wretch I meet has a right to revile me for wanting charity… Today I saw a poor woman whose appearance evinced better days, applying for relief at the workhouse (which was refused). £20 would have gone far to set up the poor trembling broken-hearted creature, which £20 I might easily have had in my power to give her; but beast that I am, I hadn’t sixpence…”.
In Found Drowned we see the body of a young woman, arms outstretched in a cruciform position, framed by a dry arch of Waterloo Bridge and partially immersed in the Thames water in which she has drowned. In her left hand, limp in death, is a chain and heart-shaped locket and in the distance, the vague outlines of the Hungerford Suspension Bridge and London’s heavily industrial south bank. A single star, probably Venus, gleams in the distance. The reason for such a specific London topography stems from Waterloo Bridge’s reputation as the bridge used by suicides. Its infamy in this respect found its way into guidebooks and London edited by Charles 7
About the Conservation
Knight notes: “We remember with pain how many unfortunates have stood shivering in those very recesses, taking their last farewell of the world in which they have experienced so much misery. We have no idea, nor do we wish to have, of the entire extent of this dreadful evil, which has of late years given a new and most unhappy kind of celebrity to Waterloo Bridge…”
Found Drowned was in a fragile condition and in particular suffered from: areas of flaking paint, where paint lifts from the surface of the canvas and in places is actually lost; blooming, where bleached areas appear on the surface of the painting, which arises from damp in the layers of varnish; and surface dirt which obscures the brilliance of the painting beneath. Thanks to the generous donation of David Pike, the conservator Ambrose Scott-Moncrieff was able to consolidate the areas of flaking paint, reduce the blooming and surface clean the painting. Friends may have met Ambrose working in the gallery, but unlike other Watts paintings Found Drowned had to be taken to his studio for the work to be completed. Its return is welcome, placed just as it was in 1906 where visitors can look down on the tragic drama of the painting. The redemptive star shines with a greater brilliance and the rich tones of the sky are revealed with other details which had become obscured.
The reputation of the bridge was made more famous through Thomas Hood’s poem, The Bridge of Sighs, in which a young woman commits suicide from Waterloo Bridge. Indeed Watts painted another smaller version of this painting, bought by the collector Rickards entitled The Bridge of Sighs – “Take her up tenderly, lift her with care”, lines from Hood’s poem. Indeed, the following lines from the poem clearly echo Watts’s image: “Look at her garments Clinging like cerements Whilst the wave constantly Drips from her clothing; Take her up instantly, Loving, not loathing.”
Why I Chose to Adopt Found Drowned by David Pike
The sympathy for the suicide is evident in both Hood and Watts and Mrs Barrington in her Metropolitan Museum of Art catalogue writes, “The subject is identical with that of Hood’s poem, but was not taken from it, but suggested by an incident seen by the artist.” Whether Watts did see such a scene is debatable but it is more likely that the numerous articles in the daily papers reporting ‘Found Drowned’, would have provided a more likely source for his painting. In Found Drowned, Watts hints at the tragic reasons for the suicide through the heart-shaped locket suggesting a lover’s betrayal or an unwanted pregnancy. In Watts, as in Hood, there is drama and sympathy, a criticism of those that judge and whose strict and unforgiving morality leads to premature death. For all “dark arch” and “black-flowing river” of Thomas Hood, a single star shines, a symbolic and redemptive sign that echo Hood’s last lines, “leaving, with meekness, Her sins to her Saviour.” There is both hope and despair, a theme that was more famously explored by Watts with a single unbroken string (Hope). Here it is a single star amongst a stillness and calmness whose glowing tones evoke another world. As Mary (Watts’s second wife) later described the painting: “the wreck of a girl’s life, with the dark arch of the bridge she had crossed from the seen to the unseen, the cold dark river, and the deep-blue heaven with its one star watching all.”
Asked for first impressions of Watts Gallery I commented that much of the art was sorely in need of “tlc” both of the images and the frames and came up with the suggestion that with money so short, members of the public who had grown to love the Gallery should be invited to adopt a picture to fund conservation and restoration. Initially I chose a portrait of May Prinsep, but already had my eye on Found Drowned whose subject matter is as moving and shocking today as it must have been to the Victorians, as yet unused to social realism. The sad beauty of the central character remained visible but I could tell that far more of the dark background which framed her image was likely to be revealed after conservation. The result is indeed arresting and confirms this as one of the most iconic pictures in the Gallery. I would like to think that readers will adopt other Watts to restore and reveal their former glory. To find out more about the Adopt a Watts scheme please call Christine Tebbot on 01483 810235 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. 8
Last Chance to See: Victorian Artists in Photographs
Frederick Hollyer, John Ruskin, 1894
This wonderful exhibition has been hailed by The Sunday Times as “fascinating stuff ” and celebrated in the Financial Times, Country Life and Daily Mail as a must-see exhibition. With nearly 200 photographs of the artists, writers, thinkers and society of the Victorian age it certainly lives up to the acclaim.
The exhibition, organized by Watts Gallery and drawn from The Rob Dickins Collection of more than 4,000 photographs, is to tour to two venues in the United Kingdom and then possibly to New York. However, exclusive to Watts Gallery’s showing of the exhibition are seven photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron one of the most influential early photographers of the Victorian age and a close friend of G. F. Watts. The works are lent to us by a relative of Cameron and include a photograph of the portrait Watts painted of Cameron. Don’t miss this chance to see these photographs from a private collection, exclusively at Watts Gallery, until 31 December.
Visitors will see images of G. F. Watts and his circle, in their studios, their homes and at play. Many other important artists of the day are captured along with images of the important models, families and muses of the great artists. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are represented along with Charles Dickens, Tennyson and Robert Louis Stevenson. The accompanying catalogue is a must have for anyone with an interest in Victorian times, photography or indeed those who just want to be nosey. Many of the photographs tell us just as much about Victorian taste for décor, design and fashion as their sitters, and reflect very well our modern obsession with celebrity.
A touring exhibition by Watts Gallery Guildhall Art Gallery, London 7 January – 13 April 2008 The Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate 26 April – 13 July 2008 Catalogue priced at £12.50 (special exhibition price) 9
Physical Energy by Antony Gormley
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the siting of Physical Energy, by G. F. Watts in Kensington Gardens, London. As well as the event held to unveil a new plaque at the monumental sculpture in September, a new book has been published celebrating this most important of works by Watts. Here, Antony Gormley, the contemporary sculptor aclaimed for The Angel of the North, enthuses about Watts and Physical Energy.
Antony Gormley and Physical Energy by G F Watts. Photograph by Jason Hedges
Watts was an idealist. He had the highest aspirations for art and for his own contribution to it. It was he who called himself ‘England’s Michelangelo’ and it may be that his very ambition is the root cause for his current obscurity: a warning to us all. However, he was an idealist, an idealist who believed absolutely in the power of art to transform life and “art for all” a long time before the arrival of Gilbert and George. What is Watts’s relevance for us today? His position as an articulator of the highest ideals for art must be seen in the broadest context of the development of art’s purpose, from its classical concern with form (the making of the perfect copy), through to impressionism’s retinal obsession with the effect of light and finally (the development of art at the end of the twentieth century) when concept becomes the structural core. As Watts never tired of making clear, he insisted that art was not about copying from a model: ‘I do not wish my horse to be like a natural horse. I want it to represent the characteristics of the animal’. This wish to make again, both insists on art’s autonomy and also realises its limitations. This is what makes him so modern. And while many of his contemporaries were doing grandiose recreations of mediaeval or classical history painting, Watts was dealing with the issues of his time, whether injustice: the inequality amongst men or the effect of human life on other species. While they were building themselves stately homes in London, he withdrew himself from the scene, while they were earning large sums for their work, he insisted on working for free and donating his work to the nation. Watts was very open minded and thought very freshly about art’s wider purpose. He encouraged Julia Margaret Cameron, both sitting for her, buying her work and encouraging others to look at emergent photography as a serious art form. His “Monument to Unsung Heroes” is an extraordinary protoconceptual work with a clear social message and it is difficult not to associate it with artists like Mary Kelly or Steve Willets. Acknowledgement that any life can be and should be the subject of art and that acts of 11
Watts’s wish for universalism marks him out as a pioneer of the modernists, who believed in the creation of art that transcended race, creed and language.
altruism and bravery can be recorded and celebrated in a public place in order to strengthen a sense of collective value is not new but in the context of his peers unusual and a precursor of committed issue-based art to come. Watts was a moralist – in a similar vein to Ruskin. He believed in the power of art, but he also believed in the importance of work. It is difficult not to see his aphorism: ‘Work is the life of life’ as paralleling his contemporary Ruskin’s assertion: ‘There is no wealth but life’. Watts’ own life was characterised by an incessant application to work. He was self-effacing and refused a baronetcy twice. His social conscience, as with Ruskin, proposed that art and life have to work together and that ethics and aesthetics are intimately connected. Watts can be seen as the first real internationalist. He was the first Englishman to be offered a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, he showed regularly in France but also in Germany. He believed that art should be seen not only in its place of origin, but that somehow its authenticity was tested by being seen by other people with other cultural backgrounds. That wish for universalism marks him out as a pioneer of the modernists who believed in the creation of art that transcended race, creed and language. We are here to celebrate Physical Energy – a work that was the fulfilment of his desire, expressed in 1866, to make a “Monument to Unknown Worth” an extraordinary aspiration to make a material equivalent to something as abstract as value. But this is Watts’s bravery – aware of arts limitations but also of its aspirations: a constant tension within his life. Watts was an inheritor of Blake’s notion of truth to the inner eye of creativity coming from the potential of the human spirit to re-imagine a world. In his refiguring of the human form with little regard to academic anatomical exactitude he looked back to the work of Fuseli and William Blake and, while accepting the classical trope of the equestrian statue, wanted to give it a new spirit. By detaching it from a known hero and a historic time he liberated sculpture from commemoration of the past to the creation of possible futures. In that sense he looked forward to the work of Boccioni and Marinetti. Watts was not afraid to continually revise and review his work, often starting again, in his paintings scrubbing out areas, in 12
his sculpture continually revising the position of an arm or a leg. He prefigured both the deconstruction of the late twentieth century but also countered the more extreme partial body-objects of Rodin. In Watts’s “Theory of Curves” his distinction from Rodin becomes clear. While Rodin was keen on the possibility of the part being expressive of the whole Watts accepted the whole but wanted to make it part of a bigger whole. He was less interested in mass – in an object – than he was in the drawing of a silhouette where the edge is uncertain and relates to the space around it. This could not be clearer than tonight when we saw ‘Physical Energy’ against a beautiful blue sky, flecked with vapour trails illuminated by the dying light of the sun. His theory suggests that the silhouette of a form is made-up of a series of curves that continue the vector out into the space beyond edges. That idea of a relationship between an internal energy and its context is also expressed in a theme he painted more than once: ‘She Shall Be Called Woman’, where the rising form of a woman is indistinguishable from a context of clouds and deep space. He suggests that an object (animate or inanimate), cannot be disconnected from that which it is not. I see in Watts a prescience of these evolutions of art: he makes an art of conscience, of response, an art based on the supremacy of ideas. Watts was an extraordinarily brave man who always acknowledging uncertainty and the presence of the unknown, the un-seeable, the ineffable, the unconscionable, always pushing at the edge of what is representable. He was a Sartrian figure in the great energy with which he lived a life as he saw fit, without reward or decoration and in his great insistence in art’s ability to originate is the precursor of modernity and a precursor of the new confidence in the relevance and power of visual arts in Britain. He is still a great inspiration.
Physical Energy by G F Watts sited in Kensington Gardens. Photograph by Pattie Boyd
We are grateful to Antony Gormley for allowing us to reproduce the speech he gave in September 2007. Our thanks also to the Serpentine Gallery for allowing us to use the Pavilion for the event. G F Watts, Physical Energy, Sculpture & Site by Stephanie Brown has just been published by the Gallery and is priced at £10 in hardback. There will be a Study Day on Physical Energy in 2008. See the website for more details. 13
Peter Monkman: Changing Face by Julia Dudkiewicz, Assistant Curator of Watts Gallery Peter Monkman is a figurative painter whose work is particularly concerned with the concept of identity. Monkman’s work explores emerging identities of adolescents from different social and cultural backgrounds, the changing identities of his own children in the process of growing up and distinct identities of public personas known to the artist. Viewed collectively, the work also raises broader questions relating to education, institutions and class and the way we perceive individuals within these contexts. For sixteen years Monkman taught art in the State sector and since 2003 he has worked as Director of Art at Charterhouse, which has provided much inspiration. As the artist points out ‘Watts Gallery and Charterhouse share not only locality but also a Victorian past which has an impact on the present. The historical gravitas of Watts’s portraits of families, friends, eminent public personas, the bourgeois, the prosperous and the underprivileged in which aesthetics and politics come together will provide a very relevant context in which my portraits can be interpreted’. Monkman originally trained as an artist in the 1980s and aspects of his earlier practice involved abstraction using automatic drawing and painting , based on memory, time and spontaneous instant reactions of the brain to visual stimuli. In 1999 Peter’s striking photorealist portrait of his new born son ‘Joe-boy’ was selected for the BP Portrait Awards Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London, and this marked the artist’s increased preoccupation with the genre of portraiture, which has subsequently become his favourite artistic vehicle. Monkman has since been featured in two further BP Portrait Awards (2001, 2003) as well as at the Science Museum’s ‘Future Face’ (2005), Drawing on Time at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford (2000) , and ‘Face Value’ at Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery (2003) showing head studies of students from a Northamptonshire state school (see left), which as the artist said ‘challenged the way we categorise youth educationally and socially’.
Notably, Monkman describes his portraiture practice as ‘responding to the face in a physiognomic way with no initial intention to convey any specific personality traits or qualities’. According to the artist, these qualities inevitably emerge throughout the creative process when the portrait ‘starts communicating back to the painter, and on completion, it is down to the viewer how the face and personality is interpreted. The portrait becomes removed from the sitter and creates a life of its own depending on the context in which it is exhibited’. Monkman also emphasises that he does not create his art in a cultural vacuum, but rather consciously draws on iconic images from art history from past centuries as well as the contemporary art scene in order to create new identities. Leading contemporary figurative painters such as Gerhard Richter, Luc Tuymans and Michael Borremans have been sources of inspiration alongside Rembrandt, Van Eyck and G. F. Watts, whose double portrait of ‘Long Mary’ served as a starting point for Monkman’s double portrait of his daughter. (see below) The exhibition will present the evolution of Monkman’s long preoccupation with the concept of identity, representing diverse individuals on a level playing field through the democratic vehicle of portraiture. Peter Monkman: Changing Face, 12 Jan - 9 Mar 2008
Left, Peter Monkman, Wrenn Portrait No.1, 2002 © the artist Top right. George Frederic Watts, Long Mary, c.1860 Bottom right, Peter Monkman, Double Portrait, 2006 © the artist
Friends Visit The Tate Store by Anne Vardon, Friends Events Co-ordinator A group of Watts Gallery Friends had an exclusive view of paintings by G. F. Watts owned by Tate. Anne Vardon tells more about the trip. As most people are aware galleries are unable to display all their works of art at any one time. The Tate Gallery, despite having four sites, Tates Britain, Modern, St. Ives and Liverpool, is no exception. Where is the 85% of the collection, not on display, stored? The Tate store is a modern purpose built building in south east London and in September a party of 20 Watts Gallery Friends enjoyed an extremely interesting tour which included being shown the climatic conditions needed to preserve the works; how they are packed for transport to other Tate sites or to go on loan to other Galleries; the workshop where replacement frames are made and where and George Frederic Watts, The Minotaur, 1885 how they are stored. The paintings are stored by size Tate, London on large pull out racks so there are some interesting juxtapositions of modern art (Matisse) and more traditional works (Turner). We were able to view the following Watts’s works, Life’s Illusion, Self Portrait 1864, The Minotaur, Death Crowning Innocence, Sic Transit and Jonah. It was extremely exciting to see these paintings which haven’t been on display for some years and Mark Guided Tour of Eton College Bills, Curator of Watts Gallery, was able to give his Wednesday 5 March 2008, 1-6pm approx interpretation of them.
Exclusive Visit for Watts Gallery Friends
Our afternoon concluded with Mark giving a talk on the five Watts which are displayed at Tate Britain, Eve Repentant, She Shall be called Woman, Mammon, Hope and Eve Tempted.
The first Watts Gallery Friends Visit of 2008 will be to Eton College in Berkshire. We will leave Compton by coach at 1pm. On arrival at Eton we will be given a guided Tour of the College which will include the School Yard, Lower School, College Chapel, where we will see Sir Galahad by G. F. Watts, the Cloisters and the Museum of Eton Life. Following this there will be a cream tea in the College buildings. We will return to Compton by approximately 6pm. £25 - includes the tour, tea and transport. Places are lmited so please book early. 16
The 2008 Watts Lecture
Family Art Workshop
Watts & Death A. N. Wilson, biographer, journalist and novelist Wednesday 20 February 2008, 6.30 - 7.30pm Hall, Charterhouse School, Godalming £5
Make Your Own Victorian Portrait Friday 21 December 2007 10.30 am – 12 pm
In his major paintings G. F. Watts dealt with great universal themes. One of the most recurrent is death, and its symbolic figure haunts many of his paintings. “Wilson’s book ‘The Victorians’...is the product of decades of love for and familiarity with the period” Phillip Hensher, Spectator
Have fun making your own Victorian inspired portrait in mixed media using the paintings of G. F. Watts as inspiration. There will also be other art activities with a Christmas theme inspired by the collection. The workshop will be led by The Fenton Arts Trust Artist in Residence, Anna Readman. For children aged 5 to 11 accompanied by parents/ carers. Places are limited. Materials will be supplied. £5 per child
Watts Gallery: A History Wednesday 16 April 2008, 7.30pm £5
Booking Form Price No. Tickets Cost
Mark Bills, Curator of Watts Gallery, explores the history of the Gallery. Looking first at how it came to be built and its subsequent radical changes over the last 100 years. It will explore the architect Christopher Hatton Turnor’s involement in the project, working with G. F. Watts and Mary Watts, the extensions and how its original aims were interpreted at key points in its history through its display and curation. It will show how the history of Watts Gallery is intimately connected with the fluctuating reputation of G. F. Watts.
Eton College Trip £25 £5
Family Art Workshop
Forthcoming Event: Physical Energy Study Day 2007 marked the centenary of Watts’s celebrated statue, Physical Energy, being sited at the heart of Kensington Gardens. It is considered by many to be one of the outstanding monuments of the 19th century. Presentations will be given by Dr Stephanie Brown (Uni. of Newcastle), Philip Ward Jackson (formerly Courtauld Institute of Art) and conservator Patricia Jackson. Look out for more details in the next issue.
Watts & Death
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Changes to the Friends Scheme
You can recieve this magazine three times a year, straight to your door, gain free entry to the Gallery (from 1 April 2008) and take part in exclusive Friends events throughout the year.
Given the importance of the Friends to the Gallery and the tangible benefit of securing free entry to the Gallery from 1 April 2008, after consultation with our volunteers, we have introduced more levels to the Friends subscription. The first level will remain at £20 a year; we will provide a couple’s membership for £30 a year and a lifelong subscription for £350. People who wish to give more might consider becoming a Patron at £500 per annum or a Gold Patron at £1,000 per annum.
Joining the Friends costs from just £20 and benefits the Gallery enormously by supporting its work. Maybe you voted for Watts Gallery last year during BBC Restoration Village? Thank you for your support, we came a very close second. Please consider joining our Friends to show your continued support? Call 01483 810235 or visit www.wattsgallery.org.uk to join today.
More than 300 Friends
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There are now more than 300 Friends and we aim to have 2010 Friends by 2010. This is a very achievable target, and your support in signing up new Friends, giving Gift Membership and helping to spread the word will get us there even sooner.
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Cheques should be made payable to: Watts Gallery
Please send your booking form to: Events, Watts Gallery, Down Lane, Compton, Surrey GU3 1DQ
With the Friends scheme growing rapidly we are looking for additional support for Peggy Kearns, the Volunteer Friends Co-ordinator. If you feel you may be able to spare a few hours each week, please contact Andrew Churchill at the Gallery.
Supporters Christmas Party and Gift Membership This year’s Christmas Party for the Friends and Supporters of Watts Gallery will be on the 11 December from 6pm - 8pm. There will be mulled wine and mince pies and of course the opportunity to make those essential Christmas present purchases. Why not sign-up a friend as an early Christmas present and bring them along?
The Arts and Crafts Movement in Surrey by John George, Chairman of the Society
Watts Gallery, Compton, by the architect Christopher Hatton Turnor, 1903
The Arts & Crafts Movement in Surrey is both a movement of interest and a society formed to promote appreciation, understanding and conservation of the buildings and gardens of this period of the late nineteenth and early years of the twentieth century. The design and form of Watts Gallery, built in 1904, embodies many of the principles of the Arts and Crafts Movement and was a natural location for the society’s activities when it was set up in 1996. This followed the publication in 1993 of Nature and Tradition: Arts and Crafts Architecture and Gardens in and around Guildford. A revised edition (2002) is available from the Gallery.
Watts was always ready to lend his works for Art for the People initiatives, not least for the Whitechapel Gallery and the South London Gallery, which grew out of the South London Working Men’s Institute, which followed the Ruskinian principles on which the Arts & Crafts Movement was based.
The Potters’ Art Guild was set up by the Wattses to create the gesso and stucco decoration for the Chapel at Compton, which expressed The Word in the Pattern through the use of Celtic symbolism. The pottery continued to benefit the villagers for it was not run for profit, but for the education and the occupation of their hands and their social and spiritual good. It sustained the social and spiritual principles of the Arts This was helpful and appropriate for a new society in and Crafts Movement (set out in W. R. Lethaby’s work many ways, for apart from Arts and Crafts principles being manifest in the Gallery building, G. F. Watts and Architecture, Mysticism and Myth) and supplied his second wife, Mary Seton Watts, were keen followers decorated pots and other products to Liberty’s and other outlets for over forty years. of the Movement’s associated activities through their active and practical involvement in the Home The Society’s website gives more details of its activities Industries’ Association and their close links with and how to become a member and participate in the C. R. Ashbee and his Guild of Handicraft who visited visits and other work in which the Society is engaged. Watts’s studio several times. Watts also supported the The Honorary Secretary, Denise Todd, may be conWorking Men’s Institutes. tacted for any further information on 01252 715807. Do come and join us. www.artsandcraftsmovementinsurrey.org.uk 19
Christmas Shopping at Watts Gallery Our range of gifts has something for everyone Show your support for Watts Gallery with our range of Christmas cards
Discover the Arts & Crafts Heritage of Guildford (£5.95)
Put pen to paper with our Mary Watts inspired writing paper (£5.50)
Wake up to Watts with our range of mugs (from £7.95)
The Life of Watts uncovered in G F Watts: The Last Great Victorian (£40)
Explore early photography with the catalogue for Victorian Artists in Photographs (£12.50)
Our range of brooches inspired by the work of Mary Watts. (from £9.95)
The beautiful photographs of Lee Miller can grace your walls for 2008 (£10)
Learn about the history of Physical Energy in this enlightening book (£10)
Friends Membership makes the Perfect Gift! Call 01483 810235 or visit www.wattsgallery.org.uk