Phoebe Watson | 1858 - 1947

Described as charming and well-liked, Phoebe was a fixture at the gallery for many years, providing insight into her brother’s work and occasionally talking about her own artistic endeavours (only when prompted by patrons).

Phoebe Watson was an artist like her older brother Homer. On bright sunny days when Homer was outside painting the landscapes of Doon, Phoebe would be inside their house working on her watercolour paintings and painting her fine china. Homer and Phoebe were very close siblings and helped each other with their artistic careers.

At fourteen years old, Phoebe accepted a job as a clerk at the local mill. By taking this job, Phoebe helped Homer pursue his dream of becoming an artist; Homer was able to move to the big city of Toronto and take art classes at the Toronto Normal School. Phoebe also loved to draw and paint. She attended art classes in Toronto at the Ontario School of Art where she was taught by Scottish born painter William Cruickshank, who later taught Canadian landscape artist Tom Thomson.

Phoebe painted portraits and watercolour landscapes; however, most of her attention and fame came as a result of her painted porcelain. In 1897, she was one of seventeen women china painting artists chosen to create pieces for the Canadian Historical Dinner Service celebrating the 400th Anniversary of the Discovery of Canada by John Cabot. Phoebe painted the soup bowls for this event. The painted china pieces became a travelling art show and were shown throughout Canada.

 

After Homer became a famous artist, he bought his sister Phoebe and their mother Susannah a home in Galt (Cambridge, Ontario). In Galt, Phoebe opened and ran her own art store where she sold her painted porcelain, and watercolour paintings and taught art lessons. When Homer Watson’s wife Roxanna died, Phoebe moved in with Homer to help with the art gallery in the house. Phoebe continued to teach art lessons and create her own art. When Phoebe was not painting she would spend her time gardening. Phoebe was very popular and had many friends who would visit her often at their house in Doon.

After Watson’s death in 1936, Phoebe took over the duties of curator. Described as charming and well-liked, Phoebe was a fixture at the gallery for many years, providing insight into her brother’s work and occasionally talking about her own artistic endeavours (only when prompted by patrons). She faithfully maintained the gallery until her own death on October 22, 1947. It is due to her devotion to her brother’s legacy that the strength of Phoebe’s presence can still be felt in the gallery to this day.

After Phoebe’s death in 1948, Ross and Bess Hamilton took over the mortgage and management of the estate to prevent foreclosure of the House. Ross Hamilton was a friend of Homer Watson and was hired by the Waterloo Trust to promote and sell Watson paintings in the early 1930s. The Hamiltons opened the Doon School of Fine Arts to help offset the preservation costs associated with the house.
Scroll to Top