ART TREK in North Devon and my own to see GF WATTS, MARY SETON WATTS & FRANK HOLL in Surrey. As mentioned on the Home Page under "News", Art Trek was, for me, if not a 'wash-out' then a 'scorch-out' (if there can be such a thing). My fortnight of inactivity coincided with two big W's: Wimbledon Finals on the first weekend and with what people continually told me was "Beach Weather" for the second and in fact everything in between; I regularly recorded temperatures of 33 degrees Celsius.
Apart from friends, neighbours (the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive) and personal invites, I had precisely five (5) visitors over the ten days I was open, and one of those was a passer-by, so really only four from official Art Trek effort. Perhaps I should increase this by two, for literally two minutes after arriving home from my own mini trek (see below), two more stalwarts turned up knocking on my door, having failed to notice my time was through. 'Stalwarts' because they successfully navigated their way to the house from a closed and locked studio which must have looked decidedly unwelcoming. No matter, Brian & Janet and myself trudged back to the studio, and I think they enjoyed their visit, even though the place looked neglected. [There are those who say it always looks neglected but in fact this is just an inevitable consequence of what I laughingly call my working practice.]
As a footnote, I did actually sell two paintings, but not unfortunately technically to Art Trekkers.
The reason I was not open for the third week was due to personal commitments, which involved driving an exceedingly luxurious car all the way to Norfolk for friends, staying there for a couple of nights, then returning in another large car - luxurious on the inside but with recent exterior battle wounds which included the plastic bumper thing which holds the number plate (cars no longer have bumpers but you know what I mean) being tied on with string.
However, that was very exciting, and the rolling wounded vehicle took us smoothly to my cousin, Jan's, house, called 'Friendly Cottage' in Ripley.
She had an itinerary. This included exploring the Wey Navigation, a fine lunch at The Anchor at Pyrford Lock (http://anchorpyrford.co.uk/), but the starriest of all was a visit to the Watts Gallery and Chapel (www.wattsgallery.org.uk/). It's possibly a consequence of being very old but in life I find that bigged-up things generally leave me feeling "Well, OK, but what an anticlimax that was." Not so this time. GF Watts OM RA (1817-1904) was a phenomenal painter and IMO an even better sculptor. But for sheer raw artistic talent, it's my contention he was exceeded by his wife, Mary Seton (1849-1939). And if anyone doubts this, just visit the neighbouring Watts Chapel (http://www.wattsgallery.org.uk/watts-chapel) and if your jaw doesn't hit the floor I'll give you back your entrance money. It won't be a problem because it's free (unlike the Watts Gallery, £7.50).
The Watts Gallery itself was described by Maeve Kennedy in The Guardian as, “A hidden treasure in Compton in Surrey, stuffed with huge allegorical paintings and sparkling portraits by George Frederic Watts that were the talk of Victorian society.” I wouldn't disagree at all with this but currently there is an exhibition of paintings by Frank Holl (1845-1888, so a depressingly short life) called "Emerging from the shadows". I felt, as a painter, far more interesting than Watts. Just look at the painting of the girl's neck on the left hand side of this painting, 'Gone', which, if you click on this link, can be seen enlarged.
Sentimental, if you will, but what sublime painting.
So Jan thank you for uplifting my life so gloriously.