ISSUE NO 15 Summer 2012
Mark Bills on Dickens and the Artists Miriam Margolyes on Dickensâ€™ Women Kirsty Anson on the Legacy of Mary Watts
Yvonne Arnaud Art Presented by Guildford Arts
at The Mill Studio, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford 11-26 July 2012 Monday to Saturday 10am-7.30pm (23 – 26 July | 10am – 6pm) www.guildfordarts.com 2
Paul Hoare: White Farmhouse, 2012. Photograph courtesy the artist. © Paul Hoare 2012.
Watts Gallery Now Shortlisted for the Art fund prize 2012! On Monday 14 May 2012 it was announced that Watts Gallery has now been shortlisted for the Art Fund Prize for Museums and Galleries 2012. We are so grateful for all of those who have supported us over the recent weeks and helped us with this accomplishment. The winner will be announced on the 19 June. Perdita Hunt, Director of Watts Gallery commented: “G.F. Watts, one of the most famous painters in his lifetime, said that after his death his work might not be recognized for one hundred years. Through this wonderful accolade of Watts Gallery being included in the shortlist of the Art Fund Prize, it seems that his time has come. His Gallery, the only purpose built art gallery for a single professional artist and a national gallery in the heart of a village has been restored by the Heritage Lottery Fund and by so many generous and selfless people, his collection has been conserved and his and his wife’s ideals of art for all have been revived through an innovative learning and outreach programme. We are just overjoyed on behalf of our 300 volunteers, our 50,000 visitors and all those, who through this national and prestigious recognition, will wish to reengage with two extraordinary philanthropists – G.F. Watts and Mary Seton Watts – two people who believed in Art for All and left us a unique legacy.”
Watts Gallery, 2012, Photograph by Anne Purkiss
Visit by HRH The duke of gloucester
From left to right, Dame Sarah Goad DCVO JP, Richard Ormond CBE, Chairman of Watts Gallery Trustees, HRH The Duke of Gloucester KG GCVO, Mark Bills, Curator, Perdita Hunt DL, Director of Watts Gallery and Adam Zombory-Moldovan, ZMMA Architects. Photograph by Anne Purkiss
On Tuesday 15 May Watts Gallery welcomed HRH The Duke of Gloucester, on his first visit to the Gallery since its reopening last summer following the major restoration project. During his visit, he toured Limnerslease, home to G.F. and Mary Watts and the neighbouring Watts Chapel. It was from Limnerslease – now the only
surviving example of an artist’s house and studio by leading architect Ernest George – that Mary Watts trained more than 70 local villagers in terracotta modelling and together they created the extraordinary Watts Chapel. Commenting, Perdita Hunt, Watts Gallery’s Director, said: “We are honoured to receive this visit and it is a tremendous endorsement for what has been achieved.”
Watts Gallery is deeply grateful to all its donors. These benefactors have provided particularly generous support:
Watts Magazine - Issue no. 15 Edited by Andrew Churchill, Marketing Manager, Watts Gallery Position supported by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation Printed by Selsey Press Original design concept by Peper Design Advertising - 0207 300 5675
COVER Robert Braithwaite Martineau, Kit’s Writing Lesson, 1852, Tate, London Included in Dickens and the Artists
Visitor Information Down Lane, Compton, Surrey GU3 1DQ Tel +44 (0)1483 810 235 email@example.com www.wattsgallery.org.uk
Opening Times Monday Tuesday - Saturday Sunday Bank Holidays
Closed 11am - 5pm 1pm - 5pm 11am - 5pm
Events booking line Tuesday - Saturday, 11-5pm 01483 813593 firstname.lastname@example.org
Heritage Lottery Fund The Deborah Loeb Brice Foundation The Isabel Goldsmith Patiño Foundation Garfield Weston Foundation The George John & Sheilah Livanos Charitable Trust Richard Ormond CBE Esmée Fairbairn Foundation Sir Siegmund Warburg’s Voluntary Settlement English Heritage An Anonymous Donor Christopher Forbes J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust The Ingram Trust The Foyle Foundation Professor Rob Dickins CBE The Linbury Trust Art Fund David Pike Guildford Borough Council The Robert Gavron Charitable Trust Hamish Dewar Ltd Peter Harrison Foundation The John Ellerman Foundation The Finnis Scott Foundation The Restoration Fund The Wolfson Foundation The Mercers’ Company KPMG Foundation The Pilgrim Trust Miklos and Sally Salamon Surrey Hills LEADER The Anson Charitable Trust The Billmeir Charitable Trust The Monument Trust Surrey County Council Man Charitable Trust The Henry Moore Foundation John Lewis OBE Wates Foundation The Michael Marks Charitable Trust The Rothschild Foundation The de Laszlo Foundation Oxford Exhibition Services The Michael Varah Memorial Fund Spencer Wills Trust The Fenton Arts Trust John Beale The Hazelhurst Trust And all those who wish to remain anonymous
Latest News Volunteers receive queen’s award We are thrilled to announce that our dedicated team of volunteers has become one of the 2012 winners of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. The award is known as the MBE for volunteer groups and recognizes outstanding work done by a volunteer group for the good of their local community. Receiving the award is a real tribute to the hundreds of volunteers who have given their time so generously in so many capacities. If you are interested in joining our community of volunteers please contact Alex Prince on 01483 813 580 or visitorservices@ wattsgallery.org.uk.
Rothschild and George and Kirsty Anson. Forthcoming events include a private tour of Tate Britain’s Pre-Raphaelite exhibition on 21 September and a drinks reception at a private collection in London on 6 November 5-7pm. For enquiries please contact: email@example.com
Friends trip to the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition at Tate
Dr John Dobson (1934-2012) Friend, Volunteer, and supporter
Dickens exhibition at Uni of surrey
Extreme swim for limnerslease On 23 September Perdita Hunt, Director of Watts Gallery, and a team of supporters including Sarah Giles from Project Five and philanthropist Dr. Helen Bowcock will swim the Solent in support of the saving of Watts’s home and studio in Compton. To support their efforts please visit www.wattsgallery.org.uk .
forthcoming visits for Patrons Patrons recently enjoyed the splendour of Waddesdon Manor and a fascinating look at a private collection in Buckinghamshire, with grateful thanks to Lord
We are saddened to report the death of Dr. John Dobson. John was an important and muchvalued volunteer at Watts Gallery for many years. We are extremely grateful to him for all the time he gave in so many ways – supporting the coordination of the Gallery stewards, helping in woodland management and in the garden, playing the role of the most elegant barman, and recently becoming a tour guide. He welcomed visitors so warmly that they always wished to return.
On Wednesday 28 November the Friends of Watts Gallery will visit the Pre-Raphaelites exhibition at Tate Britain. Booking for this trip will be in the October programme.
The University of Surrey and Watts Gallery celebrate the Dickens bicentenary with an exhibition of Dickens illustrations from the 1830s to the present day. The show also features original illustrated books and first editions from private collections including the Ian Edgar Collection of British Illustration. Explore how Dickens’ original illustrators including Cruikshank, ‘Phiz’ and Marcus Stone worked closely with him to visualise his characters and settings for the first time, and how later illustrators including Arthur Rackham and Charles Keeping re-imagined his world for their own era. The original illustrators created etchings and wood engravings rich with details and of microscopic delicacy. Dickens Illustrated, University of Surrey, Guildford, GU2 7XH 25 June - 12 July 2012 10am - 5pm Mon Fri, weekends by prior appointment (48 hrs) 01483 682167 5
The rooftop of Watts Gallery with Limnerslease, Watts’s home and studio in the background. Photograph by Anne Purkiss
Director’s update Perdita Hunt, Director of Watts Gallery It seems astonishing that we have nearly completed a full year of Watts Gallery - re-opened, restored and revived. We are so grateful to the generous benefactors, Friends, volunteers and so many others who have supported us through the Hope restoration project. Their efforts and generosity happily are being recognised by over 50,000 visitors, by awards from Guildford Design, the Civic Trust, the Museums and Heritage, the RICS and we have been shortlisted for the RIBA awards and the 6
Art Fund Prize 2012. Even more importantly, with nine exhibitions over 30 learning events, 25 Gallery events, and over 150 group tours, we have received a warm response from our visitors. Thank you to everyone for making this renaissance of G.F. Watts and Watts Gallery possible. In addition in the last year we have found four generous philanthropists who have made a generous two-year loan to give us time to find the funds to save Watts’s home and studio,
Limnerslease, for the nation. This act of kindness, together with over £1m already raised, demonstrates the support we have received for taking on this new challenge of completing the Watts story and establishing Compton as a centre for exploring Victorian art, social history and craft. In starting off on the journey to save Watts Gallery, it was our Trustee Richard Dorment who urged us to ensure that Watts Gallery was a place where we
Watts Gallery, 2012, Photograph by Anne Purkiss
presented jewel-like exhibitions, of national interest, with really fresh and refreshing research and insights, which strengthened our understanding of Watts, Mary Watts and the 19th Century. We are lucky that Watts Galley has an eminent Curator, Mark Bills, who has instigated exhibitions which have attracted national media interest, drawn visitors from across the UK, and that he has produced publications which increase our enjoyment and appreciation of the unique contribution of G.F. Watts and
Luke Fildes, Applicants for Admission to a Casual Ward, 1874. Royal Holloway, University of London
Mary Watts. Dickens and the Artists is ground breaking, the exhibition on the De Morgans, followed by one dedicated to Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale, and next yearâ€™s exhibition on Frank Holl, all bring new, intelligent and interesting comment on a rich period of our heritage. I hope that
you will ensure that through your Friends subscriptions, you benefit to the maximum from your visits to Watts Gallery â€“ and, please, of course bring your friends. Thank you for your support over a dramatic and exciting year.
STUDIO ART GALLERY Book a free JOURNEY OF THE CLAY tour and experience the Pottery from behind the scenes Relax in our warm and friendly café Enjoy gift inspiration in our shop from our own vibrant Studio Art to jewellery, soft scarves and silky cushions
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Collection & victorian art news Mark Bills, Curator of Watts Gallery The collection of Watts Gallery continues to grow. Over the last few years, with the generous donation of The Rob Dickins Collection the Gallery has one of the most significant collections of Victorian photographs in the world. This has been added to with two iconic photographs of G F Watts, one by Julia Margaret Cameron, a carbon print of a photograph taken around 1865 and the other by Steichen from 1903. Items from our collection are often in demand and later this summer an exhibition featuring a work from Watts Gallery can be seen in Edinburgh; Van Gogh to Kandinsky: Symbolist Landscape in Europe 1880-1910 is being shown at the National Gallery of Scotland. The exhibition is a collaboration between the National Galleries of Scotland, the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam and the Ateneum Museum, Helsinki and is the first exhibition dedicated to Symbolist Landscape in Europe. Importantly, it includes Watts’s great landscape painting, After the Deluge and shows it within the context of the Symbolist movement, a movement which developed as artists all over Europe developed a more imaginative, emotional, and often Romantic approach to landscape painting.
The exhibition gallery is normally devoted to exhibitions that tend to divide the space through smaller work. For this exhibition, large paintings dominate, turning the gallery into a temple of art through the bold hanging of the huge and impressive Mariamne Leaving the Judgment Seat of Herod by John William Waterhouse and The Birth of Eve by Solomon J Solomon. Those interested in Watts will note a charming study of The Spirit of Christianity whilst the great Paolo and Francesca by Ary Scheffer reminds us of that it was in part the inspiration for Watts’s painting of the subject, here at Watts Gallery. G F Watts, The Spirit of Christianity, John Schaeffer Collection
Currently an important Victorian art exhibition that shouldn’t be missed is Victorian Visions Pre-Raphaelite and Nineteenth-Century Art from the John Schaeffer Collection at Leighton House. The broad and magnificent collection of the famous Victorian collector is shown throughout the house as well as in the exhibition space. In the house the works blend almost seamlessly with the furniture and include the moving social realism of Worn Out by Thomas Faed as well as Daniel Maclise’s flamboyant, Scene – lawn before the Duke’s palace; Orlando about to engage with Charles, the Duke’s wrestler.
John Schaeffer is a passionate lover of Victorian art and benefactor to institutions that hold Victorian art and he has just generously given Watts Gallery a study by Mary Watts of Death Crowning Innocence.
Van Gogh to Kandinsky: Symbolist Landscape in Europe 1880-1910 National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh. Until14 October. Victorian Visions: Pre-Raphaelite and Nineteenth-century Art from the John Schaeffer Collection Leighton House, London Until 23 September
Exhibition preview: Dickens and the Artists Mark Bills, Curator of Watts Gallery left George Elgar Hicks, The General Post Office: One Minute to Six, 1860 (detail)© Museum of London, Purchased with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, The Art Fund and the V&A Purchase Grant Fund
When Dickens died in 1870 the nation mourned. He was a towering figure whose influence was felt throughout the world, a figure who had come to define an age. On Saturday afternoon of 9 July Dickens’s art collection was sold, an event that caused a great stir and bidders competed to buy work that had been owned by the writer. Such was the interest in knowing what Dickens’s taste in art were that many newspapers and journals, including The Times, listed all the items in the sale and the auction was reported at length. ‘When Dolly Varden, for which Dickens is said to have paid Frith £20, was put up,’ the Birmingham Daily Post wrote, ‘there was quite a cheer’ when Mr. Agnew bid 1,000 guineas. This huge amount for such a modestly scaled picture was indicative of the fame of Dickens and the visualization of this particular Dickens character. Watts Gallery’s new exhibition, Dickens and the Artists will explore the author’s taste in art and the impact that he had upon
artists. There is still great interest in Dickens’s opinion of art exactly two centuries after the artist’s birth. His influence on visual art in his age has never been, until now, fully celebrated and explored. The first part of the exhibition considers Dickens’s opinions of art through his writing, his artist friends and his own art collection. He liked art and artists, bought and commissioned art for his walls and counted amongst his close friends a high proportion of artists. In fact Dickens thought a lot about art and his novels are full of vivid descriptions that his artist daughter observed could only have been written by ‘a writer with an innate feeling for artistic effect.’ Although Dickens was a very visual writer and had a large number of artist friends, he didn’t write very much about art, even though he must have thought quite a lot about it. Unlike those of William Makepeace Thackeray and Wilkie Collins, Dickens’s novels, do not have
main characters as artists or plots set amid the art world. We meet the charmingly amateur miniature painter Miss Le Creevy in Nicholas Nickleby, who declares ‘Ah! The difficulties of Art, my dear, are great’ and categorizes portraits into two categories, ‘the serious and the smirk’. The less pleasant Henry Gowan is encountered in Little Dorrit, but dabblers aside, artists are rare in Dickens’s works. Dickens used his own journal Household Words for a more direct criticism of the art that appeared on the Academy walls in ‘Old Lamps for New Ones’, the now notorious and vitriolic piece about John Everett Millais’ painting, Christ in the House of His Parents. It cannot be ignored, but it has often been wrongly taken as the defining text of Dickens as an art critic. His daughter Kate Perugini, in her articles on her father’s artistic taste, sought to explain the severity of his judgement of visual art by the fact that he was such a visual writer. She calls it ‘the excessive realism of his mental vision’, the great and vivid imagination of the author: 11
‘That he always saw what he had read of or heard about, even when her was quite a child, is pretty certain. Thus the picture in his own mind of any subject which attracted him was often so vivid as to preclude the possibility of it being conceived in any other way than the one his own fancy had created. It was perhaps this curious mental faculty that caused him to write so severe a critique Millais’ Carpenter’s Shop’. 12
Dickens developed a very personal taste in art that reflected his own writing and is perhaps nowhere better illustrated than in the control that he exerted over the illustrators who created the plates for his novels. Such a ‘mental faculty’ perhaps both marred and enhanced the way he saw art. There was clearly an intense interest, which is only to be expected in a writer who was so profoundly affected by the visual world. In his writings
William Powell Frith, The Railway Station, 1862. Royal Holloway, University of London
and particularly his letters we can discover something of his personal opinions. The second part of the exhibition shows how Dickens influenced a whole body of Victorian art. Artists, just like those in other fields, were not immune to the influence of Dickens. In the pages of his novels they found a rich body of writing that evoked and inspired picture making. This was most obviously manifest
in the numerous depictions of characters invented by the writer that appeared on the walls of the Royal Academy and elsewhere. Dickens also gave a new freedom to genre artists (painters of everyday life) inspiring them to move from depicting costumed paintings set in the past to up to date scenes of the world around them. The social themes, so strong and trenchant in Dickens, also motivated artists to paint the poor and the dispossessed.
‘I am organizing my whole life,’ wrote Vincent van Gogh ‘so as to do things of everyday life that Dickens describes…’ Dickens and the Artists Watts Gallery, Compton 19 June – 28 October 2012 Exhibition Catalogue: Edited by Mark Bills. Published by Yale Paperback £17.95 (exclusive to Watts Gallery) Supported by The Paul Mellon Centre 13
Dickens’ Women: a highly-coloured, dynamic, cruel and hilarious world Miriam Margolyes, writer and star of Dickens’ Women
I feared that the Olympic Games would obliterate the bi-centenary of Charles John Huffam Dickens. But I was wrong. His impact on the world was not shallow and the continuing, indeed sharpened, interest in the man and his work has generated this year two films of Great Expectations, many theatrical performances (of which mine is only one) and a host of lectures, Festivals and publications around the world. But is he read, is he appreciated, is he taught in schools and universities? Alas, it is still possible to go through an entire education without having to face Mr. Dickens. When I studied him at Cambridge with Dr. & Mrs. Leavis, I realised that for the rest of my life, I would be facing Mr. Dickens, trying to explore the man and his works. So my performance,
Dickens’ Women, is both the result of an obsession and a genuine delight in the performance of his prose. He created over 2,000 characters and I can only manage 23 - but what characters they are; Havisham, Gamp, Skewton, Mowcher and the rest of them, all laced with that individual flair which characterises his people. Mrs. Gamp enters Martin Chuzzlewit with a bang. Dickens wrote to Forster, ‘I mean to make a mark with her’ and he was breathless with laughter himself as he invented her. ‘She was a fat old woman, this Mrs Gamp, with a husky voice and a moist eye, which she had a remarkable power of turning up, and only showing the white of it. Having very little neck, it cost her some trouble to look over herself, if one may say so, at those to whom she talked. [I share the absence of neck] ...The face of Mrs. Gamp, the nose
above William Powell Frith, Charles Dickens in his Study, 1859. Victoria and Albert Museum, London left Miriam Margolyes in Dickens’ Women
right James Lobley, Little Nell Leaving the Church (The Old Curiosity Shop), 1867. Bradford Museums and Galleries below Miriam Margolyes in Dickens’ Women
in particular, was somewhat red and swollen, and it was difficult to enjoy her society without becoming conscious of a smell of spirits.’ The comedy of Dickens is assured and delicious and well-known; the sour, sad parts of his work are perhaps less celebrated, but are to me, more interesting; I believe they show more of the man himself, a facet of his complex, driven character which he was at pains to hide and succeeded in doing so for many years. His daughter, Kate said ‘My father was a very wicked man’ and I tried to fathom why she could have said such a thing. It was in the course of answering that question which led Sonia Fraser and myself to the dark side of the man and we felt it necessary to include that element in the show. Many Dickens Women ought to be there who aren’t; Madame Defarge, Betsy Trotwood, Mrs. Nickleby, Mrs. Squeers ... but my aim is not to overload an audience, but rather to force people back to the books, to read them aloud perhaps, as the Victorian families did after Sunday supper in the parlour, servants included. If you do so, your lives will be enriched and deepened as mine has been, by the brilliance of his prose, the skill of his invention and you will be perhaps drawn to the majestic Collected Letters where the soul of the man is revealed to the reader. Dickens couldn’t have written anything if he’d read Freud, but mercifully Freud 16
came later and so that unique journalist’s eye, coupled with the tender sensibility of a child who felt hard done by, continued to create, with a frantic energy, the world according to Dickens - a highly-coloured, dynamic, cruel and hilarious world, which for two hours, I invite you to inhabit. Miriam Margolyes in Dickens’ Women Thursday 19 July 2012 Watts Gallery. For tickets visit www.wattsgallery.org.uk or call
Dickens and the Artists Edited by Mark Bills With contributions by Pat Hardy, Leonee Ormond, Nicholas Penny and Hilary Underwood A remarkably visual writer, Charles Dickens emerged from a tradition where illustrations formed a significant part of both serial and book publishing. This lavishly illustrated book explores the novelist’s artistic opinions and views by analysing his own words as well as his use of art in his work. Dickens’s tastes are manifest not only in his novels, but also in his magazine Household Words. The contributors explore how Dickens and his writing influenced Victorian artists who depicted scenes from his novels or drew inspiration from his subjects and characterisations. Published in association with the Watts Gallery to accompany a major exhibition, June–October, 2012 120 colour + 60 b/w illus. Hardback £25.00
City of Gold and Mud Reading the Painting Victorian London Pre-Raphaelites Nancy Rose Marshall
This multifaceted portrait of Victorian London demonstrates how artists of the day made sense of the newly modern city through narrative, realist paintings that depict its streets, crowds and individuals. ‘a handsomely illustrated volume.’ – Church Times Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art 60 colour + 160 b/w illus. Hardback £45.00
Revised Edition Tim Barringer Beautifully illustrated, the second edition of this authoritative survey traces the history of the Pre-Raphaelite movement and includes a new chapter on photography, as well as a revised introduction, timeline and bibliography. 90 colour + 30 b/w illus. Paperback £18.99
The New Painting of the 1860s Between the Pre-Raphaelites and the Aesthetic Movement Allen Staley ‘an engrossing book … a compilation of brilliant perceptions and ideas … beautifully illustrated’ – Brian Sewell, Evening Standard (Art Books Of The Year) Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art 200 colour + 150 b/w illus. Hardback £50.00
tel: 020 7079 4900
A Story of an adoption: The Song of the Shirt A Sempstress left G.F. Watts, The Song of the Shirt, 1850 Watts Gallery Collection, Compton
In 1850 the price paid to a seamstress for sewing a shirt was between two and three pence, out of which they would have had to supply the needles, cotton and thread leaving around one penny three farthings. On average it took five hours to make a shirt, so to earn four shillings a week it was necessary for them to work from at least 5am to 9pm every day but that would mean spending up to two shillings and six pence on candles. Most seamstresses therefore had to find rent, food and clothing out of one shilling and six pence a week – a shirt sold for one shilling.* It is little wonder that many of the women were forced to turn to prostitution as the only option other than starvation.
Watts understood the plight of these women and chose to paint the situation as it really was rather than a more commercial, prettified version of the truth as other artists (Redgrave, Holl, Millais and Blunden to name a few) had done or would go on to do. The result is so powerful I defy anyone to stand in front of this painting and eat a biscuit without guilt. I adopted The Song of the Shirt because I understand in a small way the depths of despair depicted. Although it has never solely put the food on my table as it did (or didn’t) for this seamstress, I have sewn all my life. There have been times when, in the early hours of the morning I too have hated the garment I was sewing but ‘had’ to keep on to finish it.
I have remained anonymous in respect for all the un-named and largely un-remembered seamstresses of the past.
* Amounts culled from Mayhew’s research for ‘The London Labour and the London Poor’ This is an excerpt from a book being published this summer with contributions from all those who have Adopted A Watts. Priority works available for adoption are at: www.wattsgallery.org.uk For more information about the scheme please contact Stephanie Dennison 01483 813581 firstname.lastname@example.org
the importance of Mary Watts and her Arts & Crafts legacy Kirsty Anson, Philanthropist left G.F. Watts Mrs G.F,.. Watts in a Straw Hat,, 1887 Watts Gallery Collection, Compton
I am delighted to be supporting Watts Gallery Trust in their efforts to save Watts’s house and studio. I believe it is a once-in-alifetime opportunity, at long last, to recognise and perpetuate the achievements of Mary Seton Watts. Her bold vision and inspiring example, which proved so powerful a century ago, have just as much to teach us in our own time Having read about Mary’s career, what draws me personally to her is an admiration for her unfailing sense of purpose and her practical, ‘can-do’ approach. George and Mary were generous philanthropists, but giving money alone was not enough for Mary. She wanted to do something herself and really thrived on team spirit and handson involvement. What drove her was a wholehearted dedication to improving the lives of others through art and education. Unfazed by the apparent limitations of country life, Mary could find opportunity anywhere. With her sharp eye and practical approach, she surveyed local resources and soon discovered a wealth of raw material and human potential. She quite literally rolled her sleeves up and transformed the community. She refused to be confined by the limitations of
her social position and gender, always finding ways to push the boundaries and yet ever respectful of those around her. Part of Mary’s genius was her remarkable ability to negotiate, and build bridges between, all walks of life. She was as adept in the salons of London’s intellectual elite in London as she was in the workshops of her Compton apprentice potters, or the fashionable showrooms of Liberty and Co. where her awardwinning designs were sold. She was always alert to new ways of meshing ideas and influence for the benefit of her community. Central to Mary’s philosophy was the strength of her moral purpose and her unconditional, all-embracing approach to life. Never work shy, she led by example and engaged the young, the old, the rich, the poor, the illustrious and the underprivileged. This philosophy of inclusion grew out of her personal spirituality. Not only did she craft beautiful terra cotta pots, but she crafted beautiful ideas of social and spiritual harmony, drawing in people from all faiths. This progressive vision still speaks to us in her multi-faith Chapel. The Grade-1 listed Chapel represents a unique legacy of her
life and is, quite literally, a national treasure. But together with many of Mary’s achievements, the Chapel has been Compton’s bestkept secret, because there has been no space to interpret Mary’s art or to study and celebrate her social enterprise. The acquisition of Limnerslease will allow us to rectify this in two important ways. First we will gain a permanent exhibition space to tell Mary’s remarkable history. And, just as importantly, Limnerslease will provide a range of teaching resources which will allow the Watts Gallery Trust to perpetuate Mary’s commitment to teaching art at a community level. I really sense a modern reappraisal of Victorian ideas. What George and Mary Watts understood was the importance in human life of a sense of place, a celebration of local character and colour, a respect for tradition twinned with an appetite for new ideas, and an all-embracing idea of community. I believe it is this combination which so obviously delights and inspires the thousands of people who visit Compton every year and clearly motivates and rewards the team of dedicated and expert staff here, not to mention the hundreds of volunteers.
Mary Watts and assistants at work on the interior of the Watts Chapel,, Watts Gallery archive
I have had the good fortune to visit Limnerslease with friends on a number of occasions and it’s hard to put a finger on it exactly, but people instantly feel comfortable and welcome as they enter. There’s a warmth and sense of security within the walls. As I look between Mary’s extraordinary multi-faith ceiling patterns and the cosy reading niche near the hearth, I feel a sense of awe for how the couple accommodated really big and brave ideas with everyday life on a modest human scale.
For me personally, it has offered a unique resource for the study of Victorian art and social history. And not just on a local level. As concerned as the Wattses were for the community of Compton, their big ideas engaged them with progressive thinkers throughout Europe and America. I have been researching links between British and European artists around the turn of the 20th Century and have come across some remarkable similarities between Mary Watts and a female arts and crafts pioneer from Russia.
I think that many roads bring people to Compton, whether a love of George Watts’s paintings, the spiritual richness of Mary’s Chapel, the beauty of the grounds and woodland, the tempting range of books in the shop, or even the cosiness of the Tea Shop. But the Watts’s enterprise at Compton is not a final destination; it is a gateway for all kinds of learning.
I have been to Russia twice to research this project and have now brought my new Russian friends here to Compton. Believe it or not, a Russian Limnerslease exists in the forests of rural Russia, about 100 miles from Moscow and is also a museum home. With the Watts Gallery Trust, we are planning a partnership to host an international arts and crafts conference and work together to mount an exhibition. I am
hugely excited to play a part in regenerating the cultural exchanges and inspiring personal relationships which existed so long ago. Together with my husband, I have chosen to provide short term funding to the Watts Gallery Trust to give a two-year window to allow them to find the funds to save Watts’s studio and the house. As a member of the Limnerslease Appeal Committee I am dedicated to achieving the rescue of the studio and the house for the benefit of visitors, students, artists, designers and historians in perpetuity. I hope you will help. Kirsty Anson and Debby Brice are founding members of the Mary Watts Guild, a group of women philanthropists supporting the efforts to recreate the Mary Watts craft and community studio in Limnerslease and to support annual bursaries for women participants in the Art for All learning and outreach programme.
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“I feel I can do what I want to do without struggling. I can play with my ideas, whereas I’m normally told what to do and when to do it. It makes me more proud of my artwork.”
The Big Issues... ...getting bigger Laura Phillips, Head of Learning at Watts Gallery
Since joining Watts gallery in February, I’ve been really impressed by the varied strands of the Big Issues learning programme. I’ve been taught to mono print by a participant from Surrey Youth Support Services, been privileged to have individuals from the Sisters in Art group at HMP Send explain their work to me, and enjoyed seeing the artistic output of Street Level Arts waiting for firing in the Foyle Art 24
for All Learning Studio. In addition, I saw the Big Issues exhibition at Watts Gallery in January and was extremely impressed by the quality of the work – a tribute to the hard work of the participants and the freelance and volunteer team who deliver the learning programme at Watts Gallery. The Big Issues programme has worked with six partner organisations since 2008, and is
in discussions with three more to develop the programme in 2012-13. These partnerships allow Watts Gallery to continue the legacy of Art for All started by George and Mary Watts, by bringing high quality art opportunities led by artists to participants who require additional support to access art. This includes participants within the justice system, young people facing exclusion from school, young offenders and adults dealing with mental health issues and homelessness. Since 2008, Big Issues has achieved 1,735 attendances at art programmes, from some of the hardest to reach audiences. There
“My children came in for a review on the effect my alcoholism had had on them. I brought along all my artwork from Watts Gallery workshops. The look on their faces was amazing, their eyes lit-up and all they could say was how impressed they were. It was like they were seeing a different side of their previously alcoholic mum.” The Big Issues exhibition at Watts Gallery, 2012, photograph by Anne Purkiss
have been exhibitions at the Royal Society of Arts and within the building of one of our funders, KPMG, in central London, viewed by over 7000 of the building’s visitors. Importantly, these exhibitions succeed in selling work, giving participants real faith in their own achievements. In 2012, we have already run a successful programme in collaboration with Surrey Youth Support Services with participants currently being moderated for their Bronze Art Award. This will be the first of three such programmes this year, supported by The Hazelhurst Trust. Conversations are ongoing with HMP Bronzefield and HMP
Coldingley to ensure that Big Issues continues to be a part of the art courses within these prisons. Artists from the Cellar Café are about to start a regular Tuesday class focusing on pottery – a medium they are unable to use outside Watts Gallery, and Street Level Arts regularly meet at Watts Gallery for a range of master classes. The group at HMP Send goes from strength to strength, with new members adopting the idea of Sisters in Art and developing a constructive, supportive artistic community within the prison. Participants have recently submitted work to the Koestler Awards, they are now working
on another body of work for exhibition and submissions for the Michael Varah Memorial Fund’s Christmas card – we are very grateful as the Fund continues to be a strong supporter of the programme in HMP Send. In addition, to mark the 50th anniversary of the prison, the Governor has commissioned a permanent artwork to be created by the women. Through supporting other women from across the prison community to add their own piece to the installation, they will be working towards their team work qualification – a new addition to the programme. 25
William and Evelyn De Morgan: “two of the rarest spirits of the Age” Mark Bills, Curator of Watts Gallery The Victorian age can boast of a number of famous cultural figures who were husband and wife and the Wattses were not alone in having a marriage which was also a creative partnership. In poetry, for example, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning were a great force, as Lawrence and Laura Alma-Tadema were in painting. Like G.F. and Mary Watts, William and Evelyn De Morgan were a married couple where one was a great designer and potter, the other was an artist. Both couples knew each other and William De Morgan advised Mary on the building of a kiln in Compton for the firing of the sculpted terracotta for the Watts Chapel. They shared together an Arts and Crafts ethos tied with a strong interest in spirituality. In the De Morgans’ case this meant spiritualism and the couple were known for their séances, the results of which were published anonymously. William De Morgan was one of the greatest ceramicists of his age and his brilliant lustreware pots and decorative tiles are known to many. In his reinvigoration of past ceramic traditions he managed to create a new art for the nineteenth century. As May Morris expressed it: “De Morgan has a progressive and resourceful mind, accepting the ancient and simple traditions of the crafts, but not content to rest there”
above William De Morgan, Dragon Tile Panel left Evelyn De Morgan, Mammon Both from The De Morgan Foundation
Similarly Evelyn De Morgan drew on art to create a new language for the expression of her spiritual views. Strong design executed with bold colours, her paintings owed much to the allegories and symbolic paintings of G.F. Watts, whom she admired. Watts felt a great sympathy for her work and wrote that “I look upon her as the first woman artist of the day — if not of all time”.
Watts Gallery will be exhibiting key works by these leading Victorian artists later in the year and give the opportunity of seeing at first hand the work of this extraordinary creative partnership. William and Evelyn De Morgan Watts Gallery, Compton 6 November 2012 – 27 January 2013
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Published on May 31, 2012
The mgazine for Watts Gallery, Compton, Surrey, UK. Issue 15 contains articles by Miriam Margolyes on Dickens' Women, Mark Bills on Dickens...