The Cecil French Exhibition at the Watts Gallery until 3 June.
This is the first time for several years that so many pictures from this collection have been on view to the public.
The exhibition is free to Fulham residents with proof of address.
Cecil French built up a collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings and drawings, including important works by Frederic Leighton, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, John William Waterhouse, Edward Burne-Jones and Albert Moore. When French died in 1953, he made careful plans for the disposal of his collection. Individual pieces were allocated to various museums and six works by Burne-Jones were given to Fulham Libraries to be displayed. Fulham then received a further bequest of 47 works, mainly drawings, by Burne-Jones.
His executor was Rowland Alston, at the time the Curator of the Watts Gallery, so it is fitting that this major showing of the collection should take place there. 26 pictures are on display and many have been treated by the conservation department of the Watts Gallery Trust.
The Watts Gallery, Compton, Surrey, GU3 1DQ
About Cecil French
Cecil French (1879-1953) was born in Dublin and came to England to study at the Royal Academy, intending to become an artist. A passionate follower of the Symbolist movement in British art, French admired Burne-Jones, who died in 1898, and the qualities of mystery coupled with careful figure-drawing that characterised much British art at this period. Although he did exhibit in London, French never became a professional artist. He wrote poetry, under the influence of his friend and fellow Irishman W B Yeats, as well as some art criticism. But neither did he become a recognised writer. Instead, he lived quietly on Station Road in the London suburb of Barnes, slowly building up a very distinguished collection of the art he loved by later Victorians and those modern British artists who had maintained the values of their British predecessors, rather than being seduced by French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.
French remains a mysterious figure – someone who devoted his life to a romantic cause, championing a kind of art against which the tide of history seemed to have turned.