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The English symbolist painter and sculptor George Frederic Watts lived in Compton during the latter years of his life.
George Frederic Watts occupies a unique place in the history of British painting. Famous in his day as a painter and sculptor, he gained the nickname of ‘England’s Michelangelo’. His aim was to re-invent British history painting in a grand manner, making images that were both uplifting and thought provoking. He believed art should also be accessible to everyone, not just the rich, so he gave many of his pictures to public galleries, helping to found the Tate Gallery in 1897.
Watts was a serious individual, so it may therefore come as no
surprise that his marriage to the teenage actress Ellen Terry,
was short lived.
In later life he married Mary Fraser-Tyter ( 1886) who was 36 years
his junior. Mary devoted the rest of her life to her husband, both
during his life and after his death.
In 1891 Watts made Limnerslease his winter retreat and it remained
so until his death in 1904. Mary Watts, his second wife and the
inspiration behind the move to Compton and the Chapel, continued to
live there until she died in 1938.
Shortly before his death in 1904, G F Watts saw the opening of the
first and main portion of 'Watts Picture Gallery' ( 1903)
For 21 years Compton resident Richard Jeffries served as curator at
Watts Gallery. He retired in 2006 and Mark Bills took on this responsibility. Mark brings a wealth of experience in 19th century art, having worked at the Museum of London, English Heritage and Cartwright Hall Art Gallery.
Click HERE for more details about Watts work, Events and Exhibitions
Watts Gallery was built as a permanent exhibition of the studio collection of the famous Victorian painter and sculptor G.F. Watts, OM, RA. It houses
works by Watts, including many of his portraits of
great Victorians. Purpose built in what was then the
grounds of the Watts’s country house in Compton, it
was opened to the public on 1st April 1904 and included hostel accommodation for the Potter apprentices and
a Warden. The building has an enchanting atmosphere and unique features in tune with its Arts and Crafts Movement origins. The original Gallery was much smaller when it was first opened.
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