Window on the globe of two artistic idealists

The studios of G.F. Watts and his wife Mary have been restored and opened to the public

Mary Seton Watts’s restored studio. Photo: David Grandorge©David Grandorge

Mary Seton Watts’s restored studio. Photo: David Grandorge

The Watts Gallery and Mortuary Chapel in Compton, Surrey, have lengthy been areas of pilgrimage for any person fascinated by Victorian art and architecture. But now, with the help of a £2.4m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the studios exactly where George Frederic Watts and his wife Mary worked have also been restored and opened to the public by the Watts Gallery Trust under its director, Perdita Hunt.

Watts, popular, prolific and unabashedly higher-minded, was active all through Queen Victoria’s lengthy reign. Although a Londoner from birth, as he neared old age, he found the capital’s pollution increasingly attempting following his marriage to the artist and designer Mary Seton Fraser-Tytler in 1886, he leased the Compton land — a hilltop site with panoramic views of the surrounding woodland — and commissioned the Arts and Crafts architect Ernest George to design the capacious home he named “Limnerslease”. The couple moved in on July 18 1891.

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G.F. Watts in his studio, 1900-04©Watts Gallery

G.F. Watts in his studio, 1900-04

As you walk into Watts’s lofty studio, it is the massive south-facing window that is most striking. Watts loved to rise long before dawn and to see how the advent of daylight transformed his paintings. He also relished the challenge of monumental compositions, and a single of his greatest paintings has returned right here, on extended loan from Tate. Known as “The Court of Death”, it dramatises Watts’s obsession with mortality. This overwhelming canvas, which he worked on for much more than three decades (1870-1902), has been placed on a reconstruction of the pulley technique devised by Watts for moving paintings up and down even though he worked on them.

Wandering round the studio, one particular gets a sturdy sense of this tireless artist’s preoccupations. His palette and brushes rest on a table, and nearby an image from the Sistine Chapel ceiling testifies to his enjoy of Michelangelo (he was dubbed “England’s Michelangelo”). A Van Dyck reproduction can be located on yet another table, and throughout the studio are fragments of classical sculpture, notably a reproduction of a figure from the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum.

Although Watts was esteemed as a portraitist, he never ever wanted to devote all his energies to painting eminent Victorian sitters — although radical girls fascinated him, and one particular vigorously handled canvas in the studio turns out to be an unfinished portrait of Florence Nightingale. Haunted by the transience of life, he kept a skeleton in his studio cupboard and continually laboured over such elaborate allegories as the immense “Love Steering The Boat of Humanity” (c.1900).

Living in the Surrey Hills also created him determined to tackle landscape painting. A single of the resulting functions, dominated by freely brushed pictures of trees, is displayed on an easel in his studio. A photograph survives of Watts painting avidly outdoors, as close as feasible to the organic globe he cherished.

Portrait of Mary by G.F. Watts (1887)©Watts Gallery

Portrait of Mary by G.F. Watts (1887)

Mary, 32 years his junior, was an extraordinary force, and her newly restored studio is alive with evidence of an irrepressible dynamism. No significantly less idealistic than her husband, she devoted herself to social enterprises. Her studio doubled as a teaching space for villagers who wanted to support create terracotta tiles and panels for her Mortuary Chapel in Compton’s cemetery nearby. The chapel became an Arts and Crafts showpiece, and a new model of the chapel, by Henry Milner, is on display in Mary’s studio. So is a series of decorative friezes, in gesso and wood, which she produced for the Cambridge Military Hospital Chapel in Aldershot — long-neglected religious operates that have now been totally conserved.

Fascinating examples of pottery can also be seen in Mary’s studio, testifying to her achievement in establishing the Compton Potters’ Arts Guild co-operative with nearby villagers. It won contracts with Liberty &amp Co as properly as commissions from architects including Edwin Lutyens.

For many years just before her husband’s death in 1904, Mary devoted a wonderful deal of time to assisting the octogenarian Watts carry on functioning. The depth of her feelings is poignantly revealed in her watercolour of him lying in bed, ill and fragile. She at some point died in 1938, and now the full extent of her commitment to a wide range of projects — she also ran the nearby branch of the Women’s Suffrage Society — is celebrated in the newly opened studio. The rescue of this important artists’ home reveals its significance as a power-hub for the work created by each husband and wife.


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Section: Arts


&#039Tiffany Girl&#039 Is A Jeweled Window Into The Past

Tiffany Girl

We’ve just bid farewell to October — which made me feel of a basically charming romance novel that requires location during the Chicago World’s Fair, which lasted more than a year and ended at the end of October, 1893.

Deeanne Gist’s Tiffany Girl revolves around the glassworkers’ strike that threatened Louis Comfort Tiffany’s commitment to supply stained glass for the Fair’s chapel. Rather than capitulating to the workers’ terms, Tiffany hired women to do most of the staging, which incorporated virtually each step of the approach (like cutting the glass) just before soldering — a job regarded ‘mannish.’

The book follows Flossie, a young Tiffany Girl just spreading wings of independence at a time when such factors have been frowned upon and Reeve, a journalist who tells himself he disapproves of everything about Flossie, but winds up falling under her spell anyway.

Gist does an incredible job of telling a complex love story against a backdrop of social and private adjust Flossie starts out in her parents’ property, practically a slave to her father’s gambling, as she and her mother sew morning to evening to try to make sufficient to overcome his losses. Flossie’s one pleasure is art — and she’s outraged when her father’s losses force her to abandon her research. But a chance meeting with Louis Comfort Tiffany at her final class lands her a job with his glass organization, and she leaves property for a boarding property, a lot to her parents’ chagrin.

Flossie is a fascinating character she’s determined to make her own way in the globe, but convinced it is a benevolent location exactly where people ought to like each and every other. She begins out as likable however immature, then grows into a stronger, more seasoned version of herself — an interesting juxtaposition against Reeve’s expanding understanding that his concepts about New Girls — contemporary functioning women — are flawed and simplistic.

‘Tiffany Girl’ is short, barely topping 300 pages, but it casts a vibrant light on an era when females were struggling to find a place in the globe that did not start and finish with marriage.

Tiffany Girl is brief, barely topping 300 pages, but it casts a vibrant light on an era when girls were struggling to discover a place in the world that did not start and finish with marriage. And, just as importantly, struggling with the social troubles triggered by their progress — men’s fear and fascination, and their reactions to the striving New Girls.

This peek into Tiffany’s glass empire is vibrant and textured, and Gist’s notes at the starting and the finish of the book sift via truth and fiction for even a lot more appealing specifics. Her option to use occasional illustrations adds one more compelling artistic layer.

There are many factors girls study romance novels, just as there infinite versions of what a romance novel is. I enjoyed Gist’s literary stroll by way of a close to-forgotten time, and her celebration of the triumph of the Tiffany Girls. I adore the reminder of what came just before — in a professional sense, in a style sense with regards to propriety and society.

Romance novels discover every aspect of history and continually provide windows on the previous — and often we uncover these windows are brilliant, colorful, exquisite stained glass masterpieces, developed by females.

Bobbi Dumas is a freelance writer primarily based in Madison, Wis. She writes, blogs and testimonials for Kirkus Media, and celebrates romance and women’s fiction on her internet site ReadARomanceMonth.com.

Arts &amp Life : NPR