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To quote Homer Watson’s favorite poet John Keats from his poem “To Autumn” “Where are the songs of Spring? Aye, where are they? Think of them; thou has thy music too.” The season of Spring is often seen to symbolizes rebirth and renewal, for Homer Watson this season seemed to symbolize discovery. For throughout his lifetime Watson spent many springs travelling, painting and seeking artistic knowledge. During the beginning of his life and during the end of his life Watson would spend most of the season of spring outside amongst the nature of Doon, sketching and painting. His early boyhood paintings and the ones he did as an old man though are vastly different and is reflective of the journey that he took in life and the knowledge on art that he acquired along the way. As a young boy and teen, Homer Watson was heavily influenced by the Barbizon school of painters. These landscape painters would strive for realism and as a child Watson would spend countless hours studying the paintings by John Constable, Thomas Gainsborough and John-Baptise -Camille Corot to name a few of this movement.
—-Nichole Martin/ Research Assistant
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, Student 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.