IT has stood for just over a century as a tribute to one of the leading figures in English Victorian art. But now the fabric of the Watts Gallery building, which houses a unique 200-piece collection, has deteriorated so much that £10m is needed to repair it and secure its future.
The gallery, nestling in a wooded valley next to the A3 at Compton in Surrey, has just undergone emergency repairs to its roof, which still leaks.
Commissioned by the famous Victorian artist, GF Watts OM RA (1817-1904), it was completed just three months before he succumbed to pneumonia.
The gallery houses Watts’ studio collection of portraits of great Victorians, landscapes, drawings and rare models of Watts’ sculptures, as well as work by other Victorian artists including Leighton, Sargent, Morris and Shannon, and pottery by de Morgan and Mary Watts.
Watts Gallery is unique in Britain as being the only purpose built art gallery to show a single artist’s collection.
Now the Watts Gallery Trustees have launched the Hope Project to save the building and the collection.
They are hoping to secure half of the £10m needed from the Heritage Lottery Fund by next March, and want to match that sum through donations.
The emergency roof repairs – carried out with the help of Surrey Historic Buildings Trust – should secure the gallery for the winter, but the condition of the building is being monitored constantly.
The Hope project, named after Watts’ most famous work, aims to restore and enhance the building, provide gallery space to show Watts’ collection of drawings and host temporary exhibitions. It will also enable the gallery to provide study areas for students, researchers, trainee conservators, curators and craftsmen.
For more details of the appeal, log on to the gallery’s website at www.wattsgallery.org.uk
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