Saturday, 7 March 2015

The Watts Gallery

Earlier in the week we visited The Watts Gallery, which is the first purpose built art gallery for just one artists work.  It opened in 1904 and was built to display the work of George Frederic Watts.

If you watched the television programme Restoration some years ago you may remember that the gallery was one of the buildings featured on the series.  It has now undergone major restoration works allowing visitors to experience the Watts Collection in the gallery with the original decoration.

There are several gallery halls and displays and also temporary exhibitions.  In addition there is a wonderful sculpture gallery.  I didn't take any pictures of the paintings as the light was not that good, and the gallery was very busy with lots of visitors on the day that we went - Tuesdays are half price entry!  Plus I only had my little camera which doesn't take such good photos.  I did take some pictures in the lighter - and less busy - sculpture gallery though.

It is well worth a visit though, and I would definitely return and would recommend it to anyone wishing to go and see this unique building and collection.

I will take you on a little tour around!

This is the outside of the building.  It is wonderful Arts and Crafts style and is just the sort of building that I like!  It looks as though it was a beautiful day, and indeed the sky was blue and it was dry, but gosh was it cold!!

You can imagine that this little sunken garden is a wonderful sun trap and must be a great place to sit in the summer out of any breeze and enjoying the warmth and seclusion.

I don't know if you would call these sculptures, but they were very interesting.  There are lights in the base and some of the pieces were glass that looked as though it would be fluorescent at night, so they must look wonderful at night.

This is the Pug Mill.

You can see how it used to be used in years gone by.  Mary Watts had the idea to form a pottery in the 1890's after suitable clay was discovered in the grounds of the house.  This clay was used to build a chapel at Compton Cemetery - which is open to visit, but we didn't because it was so cold! - and other pottery items.

Once the clay had been dug up, it was left out over the winter so that the frost would break it down.  Then it was thrown into the pug mill which is a trough with a paddle attached to a beam.  The beam was turned by a horse.  Then finely crushed particles of fired pottery were added and this mixture was then trampled.  After that water was added and mixed.  The mix was then sieved to remove impurities.  It was then left to settle until the water evaporated and could be worked.

There were several of these lovely benches around the grounds, they must be a great place to sit in the summer and enjoy the grounds.  This bench was opposite this area of pots which I assume are the work of Mary Watts.  They are beautiful I think!

Going inside now, I have some of the Sculpture Gallery to show you.  Watts only began to sculpt seriously in his 50's after he was an established painter.  He didn't train as a sculptor but had studied with sculptor William Behnes as a boy.

Watts was inspired by the naturalism of the anatomy, grandeur of form and folds of drapery in the Elgin Marbles which were bought to the British Museum in 1801 to 1805.  He admired the way the marbles told stories and believed that sculpture should show movement and life.

This is the full scale gesso model for Wattt's Monument to Lord Tennyson.  Watts and Tennyson (the Poet Laureate) were great friends.  After Tennyson's death, Watts offered to make a memorial sculpture for him.  It shows Tennyson's love of nature, taken from his poem "Flower in the crannied wall" so the figure is looking at a little flower in his hand and his dog - Karenina - waits for her master.

The piece is worked in gesso grosso which is a mix of plaster, hemp and glue.  Watts worked on it until it left his studio in 1903, but he died before it was installed in Lincoln Cathedral in 1905.

This amazing piece is called Physical Energy.  It is also the full scale gesso model for the final sculpture.  The piece represents "the restless physical impulse to seek the still unachieved" and was intended to suggest "man as he ought to be - part of creation, of cosmos in fact, his great limbs... akin to the rocks and the roots, and his head... as the sun".

The model was worked in sections again using gesso grosso.  This meant that it could be modelled when the material was soft, but when it hardened it could be carved.

Three sculptures of this piece were cast in bronze, one is in Kensington Gardens in London, one at the National Archives of Zimbabwe in Harare and the third is at the Rhodes Memorial in Cape Town South Africa.

It was impossible to get a good face on view of the piece as it is so massive and you cannot get far enough away.  However, it is amazing to see up close.  You can get an idea of the scale from the photo above of Watts standing beside the finished model as it was wheeled out of the gallery.

I do hope that we will visit again, as there is also the house to see and the chapel.  I don't think that we will go on a Tuesday though as it was so busy!


p.s. some of you had trouble reading the poem in my post yesterday because of the colour of the writing, I have changed it to a darker shade, so if you want to pop back I hope that you can read it!


  1. Now, I had heard of George Frederick Watts, but not his museum! It does look good. Do they have many of his paintings?

  2. What an amazing place to visit, so much inspiration.

  3. His sculptures are amazing, especially for someone who did not train to be a sculptor! This is a fabulous place to take a camera!

  4. I enjoyed seeing his sculptures especially the horse. The building is very interesting and I like the sunken garden. The sun would heat the stone and be a very cozy spot. Thanks for the tour, Amy. I forgot to mention in my comment yesterday on the daffodils that I remember I learned of the poem by Wadsworth in school and the first verse always stayed in my mind. It paints a beautiful pictures doesn't it. Have a lovely weekend.

  5. Love the dangly things..not sure what to call them..and the house is very pretty...I'm trying to imagine how it would look in the summer.
    Jane x

  6. Wow that is a place I would like to visit. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Thank you for the tour, Amy!
    Beautiful house and garden, impressive sculptures, and the pots are lovely too.
    Happy Sunday!

  8. Wow, looks like a great place to visit.

  9. That house is stunning... When I think about how my dream cottage would look like, well, this comes very close :-) !

  10. What an interesting place. Hard to believe that he was a painter rather than a sculptor looking at these beautiful pieces.

  11. What a fascinating place it looks to visit!

  12. It looks a beautiful house and the pug mill and pottery are interesting as is the sculpture gallery. Thank you for taking us on such as fascinating tour, Amy:)

  13. I love those terracotta pots - they need filling with pretty flowers! x

  14. Dear Amy
    I really enjoyed your post. The Tennyson statue stands outside Lincoln Cathedral, just by the Chapter House. We drive past it on the way to work and I always like looking at it!
    Best wishes

  15. Hi Amy! Oh, what a lovely place! You took some beautiful snaps too. I would have loved to have toured this with you. Seeing just the outside of that house - oh, my goodness!
    Thanks always for popping in to see me.
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  16. Fascinating, Amy. Thanks for showing us around! :o)

  17. Wow, amazing gesso sculptures, what a fascinating place to visit. Glad you had a good trip there. CJ xx

  18. That sculpture is impressive and massive...must share it with my niece who graduated from art school with a degree in sculpture. I know she'd enjoy seeing it. I loved seeing the charming and fits so well in its environment. Those pots are marvelous.

  19. I really enjoy visiting homes that were also workspaces or studios, it's fascinating to see how artists used their surroundings for everyday life as well as their artistic work.

  20. Hi Amy what an amazing place. Thank you for showing.

  21. I have visited the Watts Gallery a couple of times but haven't been since they had the funding to improve it.
    Did you manage to visit the Watts Cemetery Chapel, it is one of my all time favourite small Art Nouveau/Arts and Crafts buildings, I love the handmade terracotta gravestones surrounding it.

  22. Love the sculptures, especially the hanging pieces.

  23. What a beautiful place! I would love to just wander around there, but seeing the sculpture makes it even better!

  24. Really beautiful Amy!!You always have amazing pics!! Thanks by the tour!

  25. I loved everything about this gallery! It is fantastic! From the outside to the inside! The character of the building really lends to the enjoyment of the art itself....and those sculptures are beautiful!! I would love some of those pots as well!!! I wish I could visit here to take a look around Amy! Thanks for transporting me tonight!! Nicole xoxo

  26. What an amazing place to visit, I have put it on my list of places to visit.

  27. I love this place. The cafe is fantastic and the chapel is a real gem, so much detail inside and out. Karen x

  28. Thanks for commenting on my blog about my dress swap. I have another one planned and sign up is not on the blog if your interested! X

  29. Putting it on my must go and visit list. Thanks Amy

  30. I love those pots and sculptures but, that sunken garden is beautiful. I don't think I have ever seen a real one although I do remember Blue Peter having one once. It looks like a lovely place x

  31. I've never been to the Watts Gallery. I really want to go now. Thanks for showing us round. Lovely place.

  32. What amazing sculptures and an interesting place to visit. Thanks for sharing, Amy xx

  33. Looks like an interesting place to visit! Great photos.


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