Alex Creswell is breathing new life into the Watts Gallery's Great Studio

The Watts Gallery's latest and best kept secret is the Great Studio, a wonderful and well-lit space in Limnerslease, the original country residence of G.F.Watts which has not been used as a studio since Watts' death in 1904.

Internationally celebrated Surrey painter Alex Creswell has been invited to use the space to work in and to house some of his larger works. He is currently painting a massive watercolour of Venice, the largest watercolour of its type ever painted. 

Watts Gallery Trustees are now campaigning to save Limnerslease for the nation. Having been in private hands since Mary Watts died in 1938, the house and studio are now for sale. The Trust is seeking to save Limnerslease from further damage and loss of its heritage, and aim to secure it for public benefit. Limnerslease will become a place of ideas, retreat and innovation for contemporary artists - a centre for exploring Victorian art, social history and craft and an interpretation centre for the Arts & Crafts Movement.

The doors of Limnerslease were recently thrown open to the public for a few days and I managed to nip along and see Alex's latest works. You may recall I wrote about his marine paintings in my blog last year - I was completely captivated by his ability to capture the movement of beautiful yachts carving a path through the waves. 

Here again, but now on dry land at the Watts Gallery in Compton, we see Alex pushing his art to new extremes. His vast paintings of Roman ruins and Venetian scenes are well known to many, but these recent works are on a massive scale. The faded, subtle colours in the Basicllica of Maxentius create such grandeur and it's fascinating to see how accurately he depicts The Cloister at Westminster Abbey. His work seems so ideally suited to this beautiful old home, now celebrated as the 'Great Studio'.

Keep an eye on the Watts website and seize the chance to visit next time they throw open the doors. In the meantime, if you contact the gallery you may be able to book a one off appointment to view.