Monday, August 24, 2015

Homer Watson

Near the Close of a Stormy Day
oil on canvas
96.5 × 142.6 cm   
Winnipeg Art Gallery, Canada

Homer Ransford Watson (Homer Watson 1855-1936) was a Canadian landscape painter and etcher, born in Doon, Ontario. He was "the man who first saw Canada as Canada, rather than as dreamy blurred pastiches of European painting," according to J. Russell Harper, a former curator of Canadian art at the National Gallery of Canada. He was a member and president of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, as well as a founding member and first president of the Canadian Art Club.

He became interested in art in his childhood after receiving a box of paints from his aunt and went on to develop as an artist without the benefit of formal training. In 1874-75 he worked at Notman Photographic Studios in Toronto. In 1876, he visited New York and was exposed to paintings by artists of the Hudson River School. He first exhibited professionally in 1878, in an exhibition sponsored by the Ontario Society of Artists. In 1880 his painting The Pioneer Mill was included in the first exhibition of the Royal Canadian Academy and was purchased by the Marquis of Lorne for the collection of Queen Victoria.

In 1882, while touring Canada, Oscar Wilde dubbed him the "Canadian Constable," comparing him to the great English landscape artist because of similar subject matter and style. Wilde would occasionally visit him in his home and they sent letters to each other. He was elected an Associate member of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1882. In 1887, he first travelled abroad, living in England and Scotland and also briefly visiting France, where he was exposed to Barbizon painting. There he further established his reputation. His works became increasingly popular among collectors and received prizes at expositions across North America.