Watts Gallery in Compton has secured a major painting by G.F. Watts from a private American collection so that it can be enjoyed by the nation from 2nd July!
It is the first time the painting will have been on public show in 30 years. Self-Portrait in a Red Robe (1853) is the only known three-quarter self-portrait by Watts and, significantly, it will be the only one to depict the artist mid-career.
This magnificent painting provides Watts Gallery’s collection with a truly iconic image of Watts, and will have a profound impact on the visitor offering, helping to bring the story of the artist and man to life.
Its presence in the gallery will be used to inspire a programme of activities helping to draw a larger and wider range of visitors to Watts Gallery and Studios, allowing a greater understanding of Watts, his achievements, the collection and 19th-century social history, while increasing sustainability and furthering Compton as a centre of excellence.
In the painting, Watts wears a long, red gown presumably of a Venetian lawyer. The artist is known to have visited Venice in 1853 and it was also at this time that Watts was painting his grand fresco for Lincoln’s Inn, Justice: A Hemicycle of Lawgivers (completed 1859).
This self-portrait was painted by the artist to hang at the entrance to his studios. This acquisition returns the painting to Compton and will hang near the entrance to his restored studio at Limnerslease when it opens to the public in September 2015. Thanks to generous grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and the V&A Purchase Grant Fund, and donations from more than 100 individuals, the painting was purchased at a competitive auction at Christies, London.
From July, Self-Portrait in a Red Robe will temporarily go on display at Watts Gallery. The painting will then undergo research and conservation before playing a starring role in the new display in the artist’s Great Studio, at Limnerslease, currently undergoing an extensive representation programme.
Commenting, Nicholas Tromans, Curator of Watts Gallery, said: “Watts's Self-Portrait will return to the role it played for many years during the artist's lifetime - welcoming visitors to the artist's home and studio. It's addition to our collection as we prepare to open the Great Studios at Limnerslease to the public could not have been better timed. ”