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A Visit to Watts Gallery

14th July 2017

This year marks the bicentenary of the birth of George Frederick Watts, OM, RA (1817-1904), painter, sculptor, creator of murals and known in his day as England's Michelangelo. On 14th July a group from Aldersgate Ward Club gathered at Waterloo Station to catch the 10am to Guildford. We then travelled by minibus to Watts Gallery - Artists' Village at Compton in leafy Surrey.  Watts studied in Italy as a young man, and the gallery, opened shortly before his death, shows examples of his different styles. These include symbolic works such as "After the Deluge," and celebrity portraits including the poet Swinburne and actress Ellen Terry, to whom Watts was briefly married when she was in her teens and he some 30 years older.

The visit included lunch of quiche and salad (we were well on the way to our '5 a day'). Then there was time to visit the shop - full of beautiful handcrafted goods, and fortunately there was a sale on! We had been divided into two groups, so after lunch we swapped places for the guided tour of Limnerslease, the house which Watts and his second wife Mary (also 30 years his junior) had built. Designed by Ernest George (associated with Postmans' Park in the City - of significance to AWC) this Arts and Crafts house has a considerable contribution from Mary, an artist in her own right. Watts had a number of friends in the Arts and Crafts movement, such as William Morris and Charles and Evelyn de Morgan (examples of de Morgan ceramics and paintings can be seen in the Gallery). Watts believed art could change lives, as presumably did Mary for she was involved in setting up arts and crafts training for local people and continued with this work until her own death in 1938. The tradition lives on in the thriving Artists' Village today, and members of Mary's family are still involved.

Our visit concluded with scones, jam and cream (truly scrumptious) before the return to town. All in all a grand day out - thanks to organiser Sally Gill, good weather, the company and the enthusiastic and entertaining guides at the Village.


                          Jenny Garrett

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