Fringe Box



Is Jeremy Paxman Right On Question Posed By Watts Gallery?

Published on: 20 Jun, 2017
Updated on: 27 Jun, 2017

Found Drowned – by kind permission of Watts Gallery

By Alice Fowler

Was Victorian artist G F Watts England’s equivalent to Michelangelo?

George Frederic Watts.

Certainly, says the prestigious Watts Gallery – whose new exhibition, G.F. Watts: England’s Michelangelo, opens today (June 20).

Certainly not, according to broadcaster Jeremy Paxman who, touring the exhibition with me yesterday, was heard to splutter: “At least put it in inverted commas!”

In fact, says curator Dr Nicholas Tromans, the comparison between Watts and Michelangelo was made long ago, by Watts’ own contemporaries. “Watts was the most admired British artist of the late 19th century, and this exhibition will show why,’ says Dr Tromans.

Hope – by kind permission of Watts Gallery.

“It will emphasise his great originality and power as a painter, the glamour of his portraiture and the magnificence of his Symbolist works.”

Marking 200 years since Watts’ birth, the exhibition features many of Watts’ most important masterpieces, borrowed from public and private collections in Britain and elsewhere.

For the first time since their restoration in 2011, the galleries themselves have been repainted and relit to show these major works – paintings, drawings, sculptures and frescoes – at their best.

The exhibition explores the enduring themes of Watt’s work: his high-minded aim to shock and provoke, with works as Found Drowned, in which an apparently lifeless young woman, betrayed in love, lies beneath London’s Waterloo Bridge; his society portraits; and a fascination with the cosmos and mankind’s place within it.

Life and Love.

Here we find Hope (1886; private collection), one of Watts’ most famous works, in which a blindfolded figure tries to create music from the single string of her wrecked lyre: a picture which inspired President Obama.

Another major painting, Life and Love (1880s; private collection) also has a presidential connection: given by Watts to the American people, it formerly hung in the White House.

Was Watts really England’s Michelangelo? Hurry to this rare opportunity at the Watts Gallery in Compton and decide for yourself.

G F Watts: England’s Michelangelo runs until November 26.

Share This Post

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *