H&F celebrates restored Cecil French collection

Hammersmith & Fulham Council has made the first step towards permanently displaying the impressive art in its Cecil French collection.

The council has struck an innovative partnership with Watts Gallery in Guildford to restore a number of works from the Cecil French Bequest, which contains a collection of later Pre-Raphaelite paintings and drawings, at no cost to residents.


Wheel of Fortune (1875) by Burne-Jones

And even better, H&F Council has negotiated for residents to get free entry to the landmark exhibition of the newly-restored masterpieces which opened on Tuesday 6 March in Guildford – which is just a half an hour train journey away.

Just turn up with a proof of address to get free entry to the exhibition. For further information email info@wattsgallery.org.uk.

It forms part of H&F Council’s new Arts Strategy (pdf) to enhance H&F as a thriving borough for the arts.

“Having the collection on public view at Watts Gallery is an important first step towards permanently displaying it in Hammersmith & Fulham,” said Cllr Andrew Jones, H&F Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Regeneration.

“We already have a thriving arts scene in the borough but we want to make it even better as we aim to make H&F one of the country’s leading destinations for the arts.”

This is the first time the Cecil French Bequest has been displayed on a grand scale since it was left to the council in 1953 by the collector Cecil French.

H&F masterpieces

Burne-Jones, who lived for many years at The Grange in North End Road, Fulham, was French’s favourite artist and is one of the reasons why the large bequest was left to H&F Council.

Burne-Jones is the central figure displayed in this new exhibition, which offers a rare opportunity to see works on paper showing the artist’s great range as a draughtsman.


Cupid Delivering Psyche (1867) by Burne-Jones

There are richly-coloured watercolours (Morgan le Fay, 1862), a sculptural study in white chalk of Two Seated Figures for The Lament (1865) as well as a little-known large drawing of Ulysses and the Ghosts.

Finished major works by Burne-Jones include Cupid Delivering Psyche (1867) and a version of the great Wheel of Fortune (1875).

“This exhibition is the next chapter in Watts Gallery’s longstanding relationship with Cecil French, which began when French entrusted the allocation of his bequset to his friend and then Watts Gallery curator Rowland Alston,” said Watts Gallery curator Dr Nick Tromans. “The Bequest provided a lifeline for Watts Gallery Trust and now we are delighted to have been able to conserve these important pictures and to give visitors a chance to see these seldom seen and fascinating works.”

The exhibition also includes paintings and drawings by other celebrated artists of this period such as Frederic Leighton, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Albert Moore and John William Waterhouse.

For more details, visit the Watts Gallery website.


Frederic Leighton oil sketch

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