Tuesday, February 26, 2008

George Spencer Watson - The Fountain



Signed and dated 'G.S.Watson/1900'
oil on canvas
30 1/4 x 25 1/4"

1869 - 1934

Born in London, the son of a surgeon, Watson received his formal education at Merchant Taylors' School. He began his art training at the St John's Wood School, and in 1889 graduated to the Royal Academy Schools where he gained the silver medal for drawing and the Landseer Scholarship. Byam Shaw was a fellow student at both schools and remained a close friend. Watson exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy from 1891, becoming an Associate in 1923 and an Academician nine years later. He also an active member of the Royal Society of British Artists, the Society of Portrait Painters and the Art Workers Guild.

Watson made his living from portraiture. specialising in society portraits and official likenesses. City livery companies were among his most regular patrons, and he himself was Master of the Saddlers' Company in 1921. But he also painted nudes landscapes and figure subjects, as well as occasionally trying his hand at sculpture. The society portraits and the nudes are in a suave academic style, but underneath this cool exterior more complex forces were evidently at work, and Watson's subject pictures can be bizarre. As his Times obituary put it, while his work in general shows 'reserve of feeling and purity of line', he could 'become rather reckless when he let himself go'. One of his more 'reckless' compositions, Prometheus consoled by the Spirits of the Earth, a work of 1900 echoing G.F. Watts in his most cosmic vein, appeared in these Rooms on 5 March 1933. lot 99. Another. The Story of the Creation (1921; Wolverhampton), was seen in the Last Romantics exhibition at the Barbican in 1989. The Blakean figures have an exotic setting which anticipates Brangwyn's British Empire murals, or, as a contemporary critic observed. would have made an ideal backdrop for the Russian Ballet.

In 1909 Watson married Hilda Gardiner, a remarkable woman who had trained as a violinist but became known as a dancer and mine-artist, developing 'an original form of dramatic entertainment, half-play. half-masque. The couple lived for many years in Kensington. After Watson's death in 1934 the Fine Art Society held a memorial exhibition of his work, and the following year his picture A Lady in Black was bought for the Chantrey Bequest. There are further examples of his work at Bournemouth, Liverpool, Plymouth and Preston, and in the National Gallery of Canada Ottawa.

No comments: