Thursday, 1 September 2016

Essay: Close Up & Personal. Victorians & Their Photographs at Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village

Close Up & Personal: Victorians & Their Photographs
Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village
14 June – 6 November 2016

Watts Gallery was set up in 1904 to show off the work of George Frederic Watts (1817-1904). A little over a decade ago, a Heritage Lottery Fund enabled it to be restored and renovated and, just this year, the east wing of Limnerslease, the house across the road in which Watts and his wife Mary (1849-1938), also an artist, lived, has been opened to the public, transformed into recreations of Watts’ and Mary’s studios. Just down the road, the Arts and Crafts chapel, decorated with terracotta tiles made by locals under Mary’s direction, adds to what is now referred to as the Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village.

Alongside the 100 paintings by Watts, which are on permanent display in the gallery, and the further works and archival materials in the studios, another key component of Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village is its collection of Victorian photography. This is formed predominantly from three sources: the personal photographs of the Wattses; photographs by Frederick Hollyer of Watts’ paintings; and the Rob Dickins Collection of Victorian photographs and letters. The latter is named after the pop music promoter and arts benefactor, who bought a unique archive of some 3,500 Victorian photographs and 1,000 artists’ letters, collected by the renowned London art dealer Jeremy Maas, at auction in 2007 and gifted it to the gallery. One or two of these photographs have crept into each exhibition held at the gallery since this date, but now it was felt to be time to host an exhibition devoted to the photographs, looking at how Victorians collected and consumed the medium. In addition to items from the collection, there are a few loans of Victorian stereoscopy, from the collection of astronomer and Queen guitarist Dr Brian May, completing the story of the Victorian compulsion for this new form of image capturing. Visitors can enjoy a whole range of photographs encompassing and illustrating the artistic, literary and social world that GF Watts inhabited throughout his long career – a career that coincides almost exactly with the Victorian era.

Read the rest of this essay here


Famous Four Generations, 1894 
The Rob Dickins Collection 
Watts Gallery Artists' Village

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