Watts Gallery

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Watts Gallery
Watts Gallery (Restored).JPG
Watts Gallery (restored)
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Watts Gallery
Location Compton, Surrey
Coordinates 51°13′17″N0°37′45″W / 51.2213°N 0.6293°W / 51.2213; -0.6293 Coordinates: 51°13′17″N0°37′45″W / 51.2213°N 0.6293°W / 51.2213; -0.6293
OwnerWatts Gallery Trust
Type Art gallery
Genre(s)Single artist
Opened1 April 1904 (1904-04-01)
Architect Christopher Hatton Turnor
Listed Building – Grade II*
Designated4 June 1975
Reference no. 1188403

Watts Gallery – Artists' Village is an art gallery in the village of Compton, near Guildford in Surrey. It is dedicated to the work of the Victorian-era painter and sculptor George Frederic Watts.

Compton, Guildford village and civil parish in the Guildford district of Surrey, England

Compton is a village and civil parish in the Guildford district of Surrey, England. It is between Godalming and Guildford. It has a medieval church and a close connection to fine art and pottery, being the later life home of artist George Frederic Watts. The village has considerable woodland and agriculture, and the undeveloped portions are in the Metropolitan Green Belt. The village is traversed by the North Downs Way and has a large western conservation area. Central to the village are the Watts Gallery, the cemetery chapel commissioned by his wife for him, two inns and the parish church.

Guildford county town of Surrey in England

Guildford is a large town in Surrey, England, 27 miles (43 km) southwest of London on the A3 trunk road midway between the capital and Portsmouth.

Surrey County of England

Surrey is a subdivision of the English region of South East England in the United Kingdom. A historic and ceremonial county, Surrey is also one of the home counties. The county borders Kent to the east, East Sussex and West Sussex to the south, Hampshire to the west, Berkshire to the northwest, and Greater London to the northeast.


The gallery has been Grade II* listed on the National Heritage List for England since June 1975. [1]

The National Heritage List for England (NHLE) is England’s official list of buildings, monuments, parks and gardens, wrecks, battlefields and World Heritage Sites. It is maintained by Historic England and brings together these different designations as a single resource even though they vary in the type of legal protection afforded to each. Conservation areas do not appear on the NHLE since they are designated by the relevant local planning authority.


Watts moved to "Limnerslease" in Compton in 1891, and with his artist wife, Mary Fraser-Tytler, planned a museum devoted to his work, which opened in April 1904, just before his death.

The architect of the Gallery was Christopher Hatton Turnor, an admirer of Edwin Lutyens and C.F.A. Voysey. Inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, the building contains top-lit galleries that allow Watts's work to be displayed under natural light.

Christopher Hatton Turnor was an English author, architect, and social reformer. He is known for having designed the Watts Gallery, Surrey and the Stoneham War Shrine, Hampshire.

Edwin Lutyens British architect

Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens, was an English architect known for imaginatively adapting traditional architectural styles to the requirements of his era. He designed many English country houses, war memorials and public buildings. In his biography, the writer Christopher Hussey wrote, "In his lifetime (Lutyens) was widely held to be our greatest architect since Wren if not, as many maintained, his superior". The architectural historian Gavin Stamp described him as "surely the greatest British architect of the twentieth century".

Arts and Crafts movement international design movement

The Arts and Crafts movement was an international trend in the decorative and fine arts that began in Britain and flourished in Europe and America between about 1880 and 1920, emerging in Japan in the 1920s as the Mingei movement. It stood for traditional craftsmanship using simple forms, and often used medieval, romantic, or folk styles of decoration. It advocated economic and social reform and was essentially anti-industrial. It had a strong influence on the arts in Europe until it was displaced by Modernism in the 1930s, and its influence continued among craft makers, designers, and town planners long afterwards.

It is one of only a few galleries in the UK devoted to a single artist, and is often hailed as a national gallery in the heart of a village. The present director is Alistair Burtenshaw [2] and the curator is Dr Cicely Robinson. [3] Former curators include Dr Nicholas Tromans, Wilfrid Blunt, Richard Jefferies and Mark Bills. Watts Gallery is a registered charity under English law. [4]

Wilfrid Jasper Walter Blunt (1901–1987) was an art teacher, author, artist and curator of the Watts Gallery at Compton, Surrey (1959–83).

Richard Jefferies was curator of the Watts Gallery for two decades from 1985–2006. His role led to his becoming an acknowledged expert on the Victorian painter and sculptor G.F. Watts. Jefferies' uncle had been chief assistant to Mary Seton Watts in the last ten years of her life and Richard was born on a visit by his parents to his aunt and uncle at Compton in 1945. He started as Custodian at the Gallery on 1 February 1969 after an earlier discussion with the then Curator, Wilfrid Blunt. He provides the foreword for Hutchings book on Watts' sculpture.

Charitable organization non-profit organization with a charitable purpose

A charitable organization or charity is a non-profit organization whose primary objectives are philanthropy and social well-being.

Watts Gallery was placed second in the final of the BBC TV series Restoration Village in 2006.

In January 2008 it was announced that the Gallery intended to deaccession and sell two Victorian paintings, Sleeping Woman (1880) by Albert Joseph Moore and Triumph of Love (1871) by Edward Burne-Jones, which had both been bequeathed to the collection by Cecil French. These were duly sold. The money was used to maintain the Gallery which was closed from September 2008 until 2010 for restoration. [5]

In December 2006 Watts Gallery received a £4.3 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for renovations to help safeguard the future of the building and its collections.

Watts Gallery reopened in June 2011 after a major scheme of works, including extension, refurbishment and restoration. Visitors can now experience the Watts collection in the historic galleries displaying the original decorative schemes.

Over one-hundred paintings by G. F. Watts are on permanent display at the Gallery. Spanning a period of 70 years they include portraits, landscapes and his major symbolic works. From the dramatic entrance of the Livanos Gallery to the monumental sculpture and studio artefacts in the Sculpture Gallery, Watts Gallery shows the collection left by the artist as his legacy.

In January 2016, Watts Gallery opened the newly-renovated "Limnerslease", the former home and studio of G. F. and Mary Watts, completing the Artists' Village. [6]

Compton's burial ground, nearby, houses Watts' remains and is dominated by the ornate Arts & Crafts Watts Mortuary Chapel, designed by Watts' wife Mary, also run by the museum.

In 2017, Surrey County Council was the subject of some controversary when it agreed to provide a grant to the gallery of £100,000 per annum over 4 years to make up for loss of grants from elsewhere, at a time when the council were making cuts of £34 million to local services. [7]

De Morgan Foundation

Following the closure of the De Morgan Centre, London, in the summer of 2014, the Watts Gallery and the De Morgan Foundation, a registered charity [8] preserving the work of William De Morgan and Evelyn De Morgan, entered into a collaboration which saw the opening of a long term exhibition in the Richard Jeffries Gallery in the main gallery building. [9] This exhibition includes a number of key works from the De Morgan Collection.

Further, since January 2015, the De Morgan Foundation has had its office in the Curator's House, in the grounds of the Watts Gallery.

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  1. Historic England, "Watts Gallery (1188403)", National Heritage List for England , retrieved 4 January 2018
  2. "Alistair Burtenshaw Appointed New Director of The Watts Gallery Trust - Artlyst". Artlyst. Retrieved 2018-06-28.
  3. "New in Post". www.wattsgallery.org.uk. Retrieved 2018-06-28.
  4. Charity Commission. WATTS GALLERY, registered charity no. 313612.
  5. Watts Gallery to sell works - The Art Newspaper
  6. "Watts Studios". www.wattsgallery.org.uk. Retrieved 2018-06-28.
  7. McKeon, Christopher (11 October 2017). "Lib Dems attack struggling council's £400k grant to art gallery". getsurrey.
  8. Charity Commission. DE MORGAN FOUNDATION, registered charity no. 310004.
  9. "De Morgan Collection at the Watts Gallery".