Monday, September 5, 2016

Harry Willson Watrous, Who Profiled Women

Harry Willson Watrous (1857-1940) was president of the National Academy of Design, 1933-34, but there is not much information about him on the Internet. One might consult this Dutch Wikipedia entry, or perhaps a short National Academy biography here. And there's this anecdote at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art site.

Watrous, was born in San Francisco, raised in New York City, studied art in Paris at (where else?) the Académie Julian. While in Paris, he became influence by the small, carefully crafted paintings of the vastly popular (at the time) Jean Meissonier. Watrous painted in the Meissonier manner until the early 1900s, when he developed vision problems -- his "eyesight began to fail" noted the National Academy link. Thereafter, he painted larger, more simplified works, especially paintings featuring profile views of elegant young women. This was about 1905-15. After that, he shifted to landscape and still life painting.

Gallery

The Concert - 1903
This is the closest example to his earlier style that I could locate. But it's probably not quite what he usually did before 1905.

Solitaire
From the hairdo, this looks like it might have been made about 1900-1905.

A Cup of Tea, a Cigarette, and She - c. 1908
Cigarette smoking for women was controversial in America as late as the early 1930s.

Girl With the Mirror

Libelulas: The Passing of Summer - 1915
The NY Met anecdote linked above deals with this painting.

Just a Couple of Girls - 1915

The Chatterboxes - 1913
Très élégant.

The Composers
More ravens.

Fallen Pine at Hague, Lake George
Hague is near the north end of the lake, on the west bank. Watrous and his wife had a house on Lake George in Upstate New York.

The Blue Goats - 1929
An example of his still life painting.

So Watrous had impaired vision. What kind of impairment is not stated in the few sources about him that I could find. I am puzzled, because all the post-1905 painting images displayed above suggest that Watrous could see pretty well: note the fine lines and details on even the landscape and still life. That is, he was painting quite well with sub-optimal vision for at least 25 or as many as 35 years.

It happens that Yr. Faithful Blogger has had cataracts in both eyes as well as macular pucker (also called an epiretinal membrane) in one eye. These are fairly common vision-impairment ailments. In my judgment, if Watrous had either of these problems, they must have been mild if he were to have painted what is shown above. Otherwise, perhaps his wife, also an artist, might have assisted painting the finely detailed bits.

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