Acquiring a physique of work as substantial as that of Frances Watt, there would usually be a certain quantity of readily available details about the artist. The internet, being the source for worldwide info on the most obscure subjects, places and people, could lead on you to imagine someone, somewhere will have written something. It is wholly intriguing due to this fact that a search on Watt brings up virtually nothing. As one auction home supervisor put it: it's ?like she never existed'. I am compelled to explore Watt somewhat more and attempt to construct up a clearer picture of the artist: the life and the work.
What seem like early sketches by Watt show her copying paintings by Rembrandt, Reynolds, Rubens, Manet ? a bunch of greats ? in drawings really annotated ?on the Nationwide Gallery'. We know that Watt attended Hornsey College of Artwork (1946) and the Byam Shaw Faculty of Drawing and Painting. She lived the vast majority of her life in London, at Southwood Lawn Highway in Highgate. She doesn't appear to have remoted herself from, or rejected, the artwork institution. She exhibited works on the Royal Academy in London, and at other institutions together with The Glasgow Institute at Paisley Artwork Institute and at Kensington Artists Group. Today, Watt has two works in public collections: Interior of Lloyds, 1963 (Metropolis of London Corporation) and Park with a Boating Lake, 1952 (Bruce Fort Museum, Tottenham).
Watt's huge break apparently got here when she was commissioned by the Council of the Inventory Exchange to file the each day life within the Sq. Mile. This fee seemingly suited Watt, seen in the finesse of the works, in addition to the sheer quantity. The paintings are largely monochrome ? grey, black and white ? maybe a result of their ?documentary' perform and the truth that lots of the footage were supposed for the Occasions newspaper, the place colour would not feature. But it does also appear apt for the subject, the town merchants, the buying and selling ground, and also town structure; cool, stylish and confidently executed, they seem to embody the Sixties, masculine world they depict, where offers are finished and stakes are high.
From what we all know of Watt's life, it is arduous to imagine the artist thrust into the masculine world of the Metropolis: she grew up underneath the gaze of her cleric father, the Reverend Thomas M Watt, DD (minister of the Scots Church in Geneva) and she at all times lived together with her mom. Her portraits of traders depict a kind, considerably nameless, lacking intimacy though acutely observed. Her more absolutely labored up paintings are reminiscent of Gustave Caillebotte's Paris Avenue; Rainy Day (1877) in the Chicago Artwork Institute ? a painting which famously captures the anonymity and alienation of the newly fashionable metropolis:
Yet it seems documenting and observing is what Watt does greatest. The eye to element in a study corresponding to ?hats' show Watt replaying a motif, perhaps eager to get it right, and in addition to seize one thing ?important' in regards to the subjects she is learning.
We know from separate portrait research, exterior of the City fee, that she was extremely sensitive to the refined method that emotions manifest as expressions, and in turn how to render this on paper. There are some fascinating pencil annotations on her drawings. In a examine of an ?expression of love and gratitude' she examines all the way down to the element of the eyelids and higher lip: ?slight puckering of decrease lids... upper lip in a slight arc'.
She names another drawing ?Examine for a glance of disappointment and slight shock' ? two refined emotions it is laborious to think about how they'd look combined, not to mention the right way to capture them with a pencil.
The extra private and intimate side of Watt is perhaps seen in her work of religious topics, that are dramatically completely different from her City illustrations. We see a method which is immensely free and expressive, while still finely achieved. These works feature vibrant colour, immediately setting them apart from the City works, and they draw more on creativeness than remark.