Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt gave a special preview of Watts Gallery
in Compton, Surrey on Friday 13 May 2011 prior to its public launch next month.
The gallery, dedicated to the art of the celebrated Victorian artist, George Frederic Watts, will reopen to the public on Saturday 18 June 2011, following its £11 million restoration.
Having been placed on the English Heritage At Risk Register, the Gallerys plight came to public attention when it narrowly missed winning the final of BBCs Restoration Village in 2006. The project subsequently received major funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (totalling £4.9m) and many generous individuals, trusts and foundations.
In his own lifetime, George Frederic Watts OM RA (1817-1904) was widely considered to be the greatest painter of the Victorian age. He was an outstanding portraitist, sculptor, landscape painter and symbolist and became the first living artist to have a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
One of Wattss most celebrated works, Hope is the favourite painting of US President, Barack Obama having been the subject of a sermon by his former pastor Jeremiah Wright which set him on the path to the White House.
The collection includes paintings, drawing, prints and sculptures which were owned by Watts during his lifetime. Important works include Paolo and Francesca (c.1872-74), The Sower of the Systems (c.1902) and the original model for the monumental sculpture, Physical Energy (1884-1904), bronzes of which stand in Kensington Gardens, Cape Town and Harare.
The gallery reopens with a special exhibition of the artists masterpieces from the Tate Collection. Amongst the important loans will be The Minotaur (1885), The All-Pervading (c.1887-90) and Jonah (1894).