November 2023 marks the start of Homer Watson House & Gallery’s second annual juried show. Exhibitions using a competitive entry process with the opportunity for prizes are an old practice, and the Gallery’s permanent collection includes a few examples of Homer Watson’s art awards.
The first example of such a prize is this bronze medal from the 1886 Colonial and Indian Exhibit in Kensington, London. The paintings submitted included River Torrent and A Coming Storm in the Adirondacks – the latter is currently a part of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ collection.
Watson’s art was exhibited for the first time outside of Canada during this exhibition, shown alongside various displays intended to represent different parts of the British Empire. Several other Canadian artists were featured at the event who worked with Watson over the course of his life, such as William Brymner, Lucius O’Brien, and Thomas Mower Martin.
The second award in the gallery’s collection is a 1904 bronze certificate from the Louisiana Purchase exhibition in St. Louis, Missouri. The certificate is for The Flood Gate, which is considered by many to be one of Watson’s best paintings. It is currently a part of the National Gallery of Canada’s collection. Like in the prior London exhibition there were other Canadian artworks present, this time including a piece by Scottish-born painter WIlliam Cruikshank. Cruikshank was Phoebe Watson’s art teacher in Toronto for a time in the mid-1880s.
The exhibition is more familiarly known as the St. Louis World’s Fair. World’s Fair exhibitions are meant to showcase new technology, inventions, and general cultural developments. They are the ancestor of the modern midway fair, and the one you may be most familiar with is “The Ex” in Toronto – at which Homer Watson also exhibited several times in its earlier days.
Though the exact number of awards Homer Watson won throughout his life isn’t known, research using various historic catalogues and newspaper reviews makes note of over seven different gold, silver, and bronze prizes. These experiences in Canada and abroad were foundational for exposing Watson’s work to an international audience, providing the artist with broadened horizons in the world of professional art. We hope that our current juried show also provides the exhibitors with new opportunities, and that you enjoy all the wonderful artworks!