Thursday, 9 January 2014

Testament of Devotion

Dearest Emily,

Yesterday was a day of inspiration in some rather surprising ways. It was the first of a planned series of Road Trips on Dimbola missive. This first one was to the Watts Gallery in Compton. I have heard so many great things about the team there, and how far they have come from humble beginnings and achieved excellence. So- I was all prepared for this- and hoped to be inspired and re-energised by what has become something of a Beacon for us at Freshwater...

What I was not prepared for however- was to become converted to being a Watt's fan! I've sort of skirted around his work- without being very drawn to it- possibly for the same reasons I didn't previously get into the Pre-Raphaelites. My age being an issue here- in the mid-seventies at school, the desks smelling of Patchouli oil, and the older girls with Hennaed hair- immediately sent me rebelling off on an Art-rock tangent via Mr Ferry and Mr Bowie- and my head was turned away. It started to come round last year though when I went to the Tate Modern exhibition- helped by darling Henry's fashion commentary along the way! Also, my growing collection of prints from contemporaneous books, contained several of his illustrations- this one being my favourite;

Not having a date for it- I don't know if it's Angelo Collarozzi Senior or Junior- but that's another story- anyhow- here's Senior, in Julia Margaret Cameron's hands-

Which is where I kind of began on this trail, back in 2005! 
Back to Watts...
I met up with our Chairman in the fabulous Gift Shop and were warmly greeted by the Staff- all of whom are Volunteers. Brian bought books (as usual) and we waited for Nick our guide who is the Curator. 
Nick and his lovely family stayed with us last Summer- so he knows what we are trying to achieve at Dimbola- and is very encouraging. He explained the relationship of all the buildings surrounding the Gallery- and I got a developing sense of the past and present very symbiotically singing off of the same hymn sheet.
Mary Seton Watts- G.F.Watts second Wife, had created this fascinating enclave- for herself and her husband to work in. The effect of her own aesthetic- Arts and Crafts-centric- enabled me personally to look at Watts with a more appreciative eye. Similarly- this seems to me to be The Watts Gallery's secret weapon- as their task is to convert those historically not loving his work!

Chatting with Nick outside- the recent extreme weather has left them with local flooding- his genuine concern for his place of work was overwhelming. In the early days, the Gallery had buckets dotted about to catch leaks from the roof- and he was fretting about their return today! 
Everyone gives you this feeling here- it is a very special place...
The past, the present and the future are all working together here- an absolute inspiration!

Thoughtfully curated- somehow for me at least- they have managed to let us see Watts as his Wife saw him- her devotion (and the current Team's devotion)- allowing his work to be seen afresh.

Next road-trip Em- I think it'll be to Watt's first Wife's home. Ellen Terry fascinates me- and there is a recently restored 'Beetle' dress to be admired that apparently Lewis Carroll remarked on when he saw her wearing it at a performance shortly before his death.
What fun Emily!
Your ever-loving Grandmother, GiGi xxxx

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