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“After some years of restless wandering in quest of an adequate medium of expression in art, a desire took possession of me to live again where I knew great quiet would blend itself luxuriously with the schemes I was developing for my painting. It came to me that among the nooks and scenes of this village nestling among the hills, I should find ample material to fix in some degree the infinite beauties that emanate from the mystery of sky and land… in such an atmosphere, undisturbed by the clamour of man’s contention, I could scarcely help being in accord with nature’s spirit.” – Homer Watson. unpublished manuscript.
Instead of continuing to live abroad in the United Kingdom and continuing in this more British style of painting Homer Watson changed course and choose a different path, returning to Canada and living out the rest of his life in his boyhood area of Doon. Homer Watson was successful in preserving the woods behind his house between Fairway Road and hwy 401. The struggle to keep the undisturbed landscape from the “clamour of man’s contention” continues to this day. More than one group is actively fighting the clamour through courts and government.
Curatorial Interpretation – Janine Foertsch
In 1889 Watson began to learn the technique of Etching. His desire was to reproduce his famous painting, The Pioneer Mill, 1879, oil on canvas. The painting was completed for the opening exhibition of the new Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and was purchased by the Princess Louise and the Governor General, the Marquis de Lorne and then given as a gift to Her majesty Queen Victoria. Under the guidance of genre painter George Clausen, Watson honed his etching skills and then asked permission to visit the painting in the private apartments of Windsor Castle. Using a sharp metal tool, Homer engraved his image onto the copper plate then submerged the plate into etching solutions that, upon exposure, intensified the depth of each mark. The artist then rolled an even layer of ink on the plate and using a printing press transferred the image onto paper. Using this technique Homer created some of his most interesting pieces focusing on the element of line to capture interest and emotion. Explore these unique artworks arranged for display by Janine Foertsch, Curatorial Assistant.
Not a lot is known about Phoebe Watson (1858-1947), the younger sister of Homer Watson; her diaries remain at large. But what we do know is that Phoebe was a caregiver, business women, gardener, landowner, community worker, traveler, lover and friend. She threw parties that everyone wanted to attend. In the height of the depression, she invited guests to a “backward” party and asked them to dress in old forgotten clothes. She opened the door for guests, and holding a lighted candle, dressed in her mother’s old fashioned nightgown, welcomed her guests with a “Good Bye” in true backward greeting. Among all her traits this woman of mystery was most celebrated as both a feminist (before there was such a word), and artist for which she received great accolades and awards previously reserved for men. Phoebe wrote: “Women’s influence on the world at large is always felt, how can it be otherwise?” Phoebe’s hand painted china became admired and collected on a national level. Among her paintings on display at the gallery you will find a tall black vase skilfully painted in art-deco flavour with scenes of glowing colours of the famous sunrises and moonlit nights on Lake Huron. You will also find lush red roses, painted in free falling wisps on a small bowl and be drawn to the subtle flowers outlining a women’s vanity set. Drop by the gallery to find out more about Phoebe and see her work.