Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Postman's Park (43): memorial in a memorial

The Watts Memorial is named for its creator but is intended to commemorate the 'heroic self-sacrifice' of others. However, the artist who founded it is not forgotten here. Alongside the tiles commemorating acts of 'ordinary heroes' was placed a modest memorial to Watts himself. He certainly had a claim to be remembered beyond his role in the Postman's Park plaques.

George Frederic Watts was among the most popular of Victorian artists, considered the Michaelangelo of nineteenth-century Britain by his contemporaries. Friends included the pre-Raphaelites, photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, and Lord Tennyson. His sculpture Physical Energy is in Hyde Park, while other works are in the Tate and National Portrait Galleries. His former studio at Compton is a gallery celebrating his life and work.

Much of Watts' art had a wider social purpose; the 'Hall of Fame' series of portraits, intended to provide positive examples of eminent contemporaries, was effectively a counterpart to the Postman's Park project. The latter was similarly designed to provide a good moral example to those who viewed it, as well as a recognition of the ordinary people commemorated within.

However, the statuette's inscription does nothing to describe Watts the celebrated Royal Academician. Instead, it simply records his part in the memorial:

IN MEMORIAM GEORGE FREDERIC WATTS WHO DESIRING TO HONOUR HEROIC SELF SACRIFICE PLACED THESE RECORDS HERE



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