GF Watts
Among the green waves of the North Downs and straight outta the tiny village of Compton is the GF Watts Gallery. No more than a coaching post between Guildford and Godalming, it is a quiet rural place with an extraordinary gallery. ‘Celtic Art Nouveau’ says the leaflet. We laugh, but cannot describe it better.

Watts was a product of the Victorian era. In the context of the times, his heart was in the right place and his wallet backed it up. He donated money to the poor and established Postman’s Park in a London churchyard; publicising tales of local heroics. He was once dubbed the English Michelangelo, something that pleased him initially and then stalked him forever.

As a painter he was prolific, churning out portraits and landscapes. He was a contemporary (and friend) of Ruskin, Burne-Jones and Morris and the Pre-Raphaelite style is in every pout and chiselled cheekbone.

The gallery and family chapel are both Arts and Crafts designs; every stone ripe for decoration and each door laced with iron. Watt’s second wife added the chapel after his first forage into marriage (with the actress Ellen Terry) was annulled. She was 16 and he, a little more experienced at 47. It didn’t last long.

Considering its location, on Saturday afternoon the gallery is packed. I’ve always thought this style of painting has an unfashionable stigma around it. Something to do with the forced morality behind some paintings or because Andrew Lloyd-Webber likes it. Here it works, perhaps because the last thing you expect to find in a village on the North Downs is a gallery full of Victorian melodrama.