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Winter does not appear as frequently as the other seasons in Homer Watson’s works, however, snowy hills and barren trees still make an appearance on some of his canvases and boards. The painting Winter Landscape, Doon depicts a cold and cloudy day, where one could enjoy many traditional winter activities like sledding and skating. Homer’s snowy scenes, when viewed in combination with his family’s writings, offer examples of some of the holiday fun that was had during the early 20th century.

Homer Watson. Winter Landscape, Doon, c.1930. Oil on Board. HWHG Permanent Collection.

As the season changed from autumn to winter, the wheels on carts and carriages were replaced with skis to handle the winter weather. Homer’s niece, Jane Van Every, wrote fondly of riding a sleigh down to visit her uncle during the holiday season.

It was at Christmas time, some five years after the gallery was finished and in order. All the relatives jingled down to Doon in a large sleigh. They sat facing one another, and there was, of course, a space at the back where the children huddled, myself among them. Snowy fields glimmered and the aunts and uncles sang, bass, alto, soprano.

Homer Watson. The First Snow, 1923. Oil on Board. On Loan from Parkwood Senior Community.
The First Snow depicts a figure driving a horse-drawn sleigh down a moonlit road.

According to Van Every, stomping to the chorus of “Come Where the Lillies Bloom” was an excellent foot warmer!

Songs and singing crop up quite often in these recollections of holiday gatherings. Other memories from nieces and nephews recall piano concerts and “visits from Santa”.

It was regular practice to have Christmas concerts at Ethel Reid’s (Uncle Byon) father’s place – in their huge dining room where there was “room for the whole family”. Homer was always chairman. Katherine played piano, there were songs and recitations. After, Santa would come, with a great clanging of bells outside.

Though winter can be dark and cold, Homer’s family had some bright and cheerful times. These happy memories provide some “behind the scenes” imagery in connection to Homer’s winter landscapes and demonstrate some of the ways the Watsons enjoyed the season.

 

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