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Watts Gallery Artist’s Village

Watts Gallery Artist’s Village

Founded in 1904 as the only gallery in the UK devoted to a single artist, Watts Gallery – Artists' Village offers a unique insight into the life and work of 'England's Michelangelo' George Frederic Watts and his wife, the designer and artist Mary Watts. The Artists' Village carries on the Wattses' legacy of 'Art for All' with its historic and contemporary galleries, working Artist in Residence and conservation studios and an extensive learning programme.

Watts Gallery Artists' Village that  hidden away in the leafy lanes of Compton, is a pretty village of North Downs Way, just 10 minutes drive from Guildford in Surrey. Watts Gallery Artists' Village offers insight into not only a unique artistic partnership but also the important role Surrey played in the cultural life on the late 19th. And early 20th centuries.

In 1891 husband and wife George Frederic Watts and Mary Seton Watts- he an esteemed painter, she is a sculptor 32 years his junior – escaped the pollution and crowds of London to this peaceful Surrey Hills spot. George Frederic Watts was widely considered to be the greatest painter of the Victorian era. A portraitist, sculptor, landscape painter and symbolist, Watts's work embodied the most pressing themes and ideas of the time, earning him the title England's Michelangelo.

Here the ageing Watts, previously best known for his portraits, shifted his attention to landscape paintings and sculpture, while Mary began a furiously creative phase, making decorative panels for their home, designing the astonishing Compton Chapel, teaching pottery classes and establishing the Compton pottery.

Watts Gallery first opened its doors to the public in 1904, it is a purpose-built art gallery created to display the works of the great Victorian artist G F Watts. Watts holds a unique position within British art, as he found critical acclaim in his own time and was admired by his fellow artists, both at home and abroad, and was popularly adored. He lived to see the gallery open for only three months, passing away on 1 July 1904.

There is a lot to see in Watts Gallery Artist’s Village , please reckon on at least 3 hours for a visit. Here is for you a short guide.

  • Watts Gallery that still focuses on G F Watts paintings also has a programme of temporary exhibitions showcasing some of the finest works relating to Watts, his inner circle and art of the Victorian period.
  • Sculpture Gallery  just around the corner, here you will see life-sized models of Watts’ monumental works include “Physical Energy” (1878).
  • Limnerlease -the couple’s home, is visitable only on guided tours. It is located a 10 minute walk from the main complex. None of the furnishing are original, but you can see Mary’s lively ceiling panels, packed with natural and spiritual imagery from around the world.
  • Watts Studio in the east wing of the house, there was much public interest in artists' studios during the 19th century, and along with famous friends and notable sitters, journalists regularly came to Compton to experience G F at work in his studio. Here you will see as well illustrated explanations of Mary’s gesso technique, and her detailed diaries, sketchbooks and decorated photograph albums.
  • Watts Chapel is the star of the village, Mary’s masterpiece, located a 3 minute walk from a museum. Within this little red -brick and terracotta building, reminiscent of a Byzantine church.
  • Compton Pottery became well known for its large ornamental pots, birdbaths, garden ornaments and sundials. It remained a successful industry, providing employment in the village until 1956.
  • The tearoom in Mary’s old pottery, serves cakes and light lunches on crockery based on Compton pottery.

Experience gallery



At a glance

  • Activity

    Culture, Entertainment, Sightseeing
  • Address

    Down Lane Compton Guildford Surrey GU3 1DQ
  • Opening hours

    Daily 10:30am-5pm

"Discover the best places where 'England's Michelangelo' worked and lived"

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