Watts Gallery Trust’s campaign to create a new landmark for Surrey has received planning permission from Guildford Borough Council, it was announced today – in the week that Tyne Tees celebrated twenty years since the installation of its Angel of the North.

Now, the Trust will be able to proceed with siting a new cast of Physical Energy – the monumental equestrian sculpture by the great Victorian artist George Frederic Watts OM RA (1817 – 1904) – in the public realm, to stand as a beacon for creativity in the region.

Currently on display in the Annenberg Courtyard at the Royal Academy of Arts, the new bronze sculpture – which was commissioned last year by the Trust to mark the bicentenary of the birth of G F Watts – will now be sited in a prominent location near Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village, clearly visible from the A3.  The Trust has worked with Surrey County Council to secure this site, and is working with leading landscape architect Marian Boswall to ensure the setting enhances the environment whilst safeguarding its ecology.

The siting of Physical Energy in the public realm in Surrey has been supported by a crowdfunding campaign through Art Fund’s Art Happens platform. Extraordinary public support for the campaign resulted in it becoming Art Happens’ most successful fundraising campaign to date.

G F Watts is widely considered to be one of the greatest artists of the Victorian age.  He was the first living artist to be given a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of art, New York, and the bequest of his paintings made a significant contribution to founding collections of Tate and the National Portrait Gallery.

Physical Energy is recognised as the artist’s most famous work, an allegory of human vitality and “that restless physical impulse to seek the still unachieved”.  The original plaster model, worked on by the artist for over twenty years, can be seen at Watts Gallery, the art gallery created in Compton by George and Mary Watts at the end of the 19th century as part of an extraordinary Artists’ Village that provided employment and inspiration for the community.

Commenting, Alistair Burtenshaw, Director of Watts Gallery Trust, said: “This is tremendous news for our campaign to create a lasting landmark for Surrey.  Public support has been overwhelming and our heartfelt thanks must go to the Art Happens campaign and to everyone who has helped us to get this far.” 

“Sited by the A3, near Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village, Physical Energy will signpost the rich cultural heritage of our area, for visitors, for Surrey residents and for those passing through our great county.”

He continues: “With planning now granted, we are actively seeking the final funds to complete this pioneering project, to ensure that when Physical Energy leaves the Royal Academy later this spring, the site is ready to receive the monumental horse and rider.  With your support, together we can create an inspirational icon for everyone in Surrey.”

Work will begin on the new site in spring.  Physical Energy is on public display at the Royal Academy of Arts until 6th April 2018.

© Guildford Arts 2016

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