Watts Gallery Trust is pleased to announce that Limnerslease will reopen to the public on 6 December 2021.
The former Arts & Crafts home and studios of artists George Frederic Watts OM RA (1817–1904) and Mary Watts (1849–1938), designed by Ernest George (1839-1922) have been closed since March 2020 when the first UK lockdown was announced. They planned to reopen last Autumn, but following an electrical fire in September 2020, they have remained closed allowing for renovation and conservation to take place.
Previously only accessible through a pre-booked guided tour, domestic spaces in the artists’ home will now be included as part of the admission.
From 6 December, visitors to Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village will once again be able to visit Limnerslease, where they can experience the recreation of G F Watts’s studio in which the internationally renowned artist painted a number of his most important works; discover the story of Mary Watts, from her childhood in India and Scotland to the creation of Watts Chapel and the Potters’ Arts Guild; learn about the Wattses’ life in Compton and visit some of the domestic rooms with unique decorative features by Mary Watts, including ceiling tiles in which Mary evolved designs for Watts Chapel, ornate fire surrounds and the decorated alcove in which Mary regularly read to G F Watts.
New, historically accurate colour schemes have been introduced throughout the house and studios following recent research.
For the reopening, a redisplay in G F Watts’s studio returns pictures the artist is known to have created in Compton to this evocative space, including Sunset on the Alps (1888), the first work to be painted in this studio; the recently restored The Good Samaritan (1849-1904), Sir Galahad (c.1897-1902), a recent acquisition, and the monumental Court of Death (1871-1902, Tate) , displayed on a reconstruction of the winching system G F Watts used to raise and lower his large-scale canvases.
Acclaimed ceramic artist Magdalene Odundo will co-curate a display of Compton Pottery in the Mary Watts Gallery.
A new digital tour drawing from Mary Watts’s diaries will be available to explore the domestic and creative life of G F and Mary Watts.
Newly installed in the surrounding gardens is Bench 1, a woodland auditorium designed by Practice Architecture. The raised, douglas-fir amphitheatre creates a visual and acoustic environment that visitors are invited to experience.
Creative workshops for visitors, schools and community groups are once again available in the Clore Learning Studio, with the popular Make Space programme returning during the school holidays and a packed season of creativity for winter to be enjoyed by all ages and abilities.
Alistair Burtenshaw, Director of Watts Gallery Trust, said:
“It has been wonderful to welcome visitors back to Watts Gallery and Watts Chapel since May, and we cannot wait to reopen Limnerslease in time for Christmas.”
“Although the fire in the lobby was localised, smoke filled the building leaving a residue which required the collection and contents to be removed and conserved, and the entire building cleaned and redecorated. Given the need to close temporarily, we were keen to use the opportunity to conduct further research into the lives of G F and Mary Watts in this very special place of domestic creativity and those of the villagers they worked with and the many well-known visitors who came to Compton.”
“Now, we look forward to once again welcoming visitors to Limnerslease, to discover where our founders’ extraordinary vision for Compton began. We are excited by the work to research, interpret and reimagine the artists’ studio-home, gardens and grounds at Limnerslease and thrilled to introduce Bench 1, an outdoor space where people can come together to exchange ideas, reflect and be inspired – continuing the Art for All mission of G F and Mary Watts.”
For further information:
Photo: Andy Newbold Photography