In Memoriam Barrington Watson (1931-2016)

National Gallery of Jamaica: Barrington Watson Lecture for the Edna Manley College Rex Nettleford Conference

Barrington Watson signs autographs for art students after his October 13, 2011 lecture at the National Gallery of Jamaica.

The National Gallery of Jamaica is deeply saddened by the news that Jamaica master artist Professor the Honourable Barrington Watson, O.J., has passed away yesterday, January 26, at age eighty-five.

Barrington Watson - Conversation (1981), Collection: NGJ

Barrington Watson – Conversation (1981), Collection: NGJ

Barrington Watson – or Barrington, as he is popularly known – was born in Hanover, Jamaica, in 1931. He was educated at the prestigious Royal College of Art in London and attended several other major European art academies, including the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris and the Rijksacademie in Amsterdam. He returned to Jamaica in 1961 and quickly rose to prominence as a major artist in post-Independence Jamaica. Along with Eugene Hyde and Karl Parboosingh, he established the Contemporary Jamaican Artists’ Association in 1964 and he was from 1962 to 1966 the first Director of Studies at the Jamaica School of Art (now part of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts), where he introduced the full-time diploma programme. He subsequently also acted as a visiting Professor at Spelman College in Atlanta. Barrington chaired the Bank of Jamaica art collection in the mid-1970s and operated several art galleries: Gallery Barrington, which has existed in several incarnations since 1974, and the Contemporary Art Centre, which was active from 1985 to 1998. His home in the parish of St Thomas, Orange Park, is recognized as a heritage site. It is part of a former coffee plantation and it has since he bought the property in 1968, served as the location of his main studio and a meeting place for artists and art lovers. Barrington left Orange Park to the Nation in 1994.

Barrington Watson - Washer Women

Barrington Watson – Washer Women (1966), Collection: NGJ

Essentially an academic realist, Barrington explored a wide range of themes and genres in his work, including history painting, genre, portraits and self-portraits, nudes, erotica, the landscape and the still life, ranging from the intimate to the epic and all interpreted with his unique painterly sensibility. Barrington insisted on being recognized as an artist first and as a Jamaican artist second but most of his paintings were inspired by Jamaica and its people and he produced some of the most iconic images in Jamaican art history, such as Mother and Child (1958-59) and Conversation (1981) in the National Gallery of Jamaica Collection. Although he is best known as a painter, Barrington was also an accomplished draughtsman and printmaker.

Barrington Watson - Athlete's Nightmare II (1966), A.D. Scott Collection, NGJ

Barrington Watson – Athlete’s Nightmare II (1966), A.D. Scott Collection, NGJ

Barrington executed several major commissions, including the mural The Garden Party (1975) and the installation Trust (1975, with Cecil Baugh) at the Bank of Jamaica, and the mural Our Heritage (1974) at Olympia in Kingston. He executed many official portraits, including those of past Prime Ministers of Jamaica, of Martin Luther King (1970) at Spelman College, and of former Commonwealth Secretary-General and UWI Chancellor Sir Shridath Ramphal at the University of the West Indies – Mona (1992) and Marlborough House in London (1995). His work is well represented in the National Gallery of Jamaica Collection, with masterworks such as Mother and Child (1958-59), Washerwomen (1966), Athlete’s Nightmare II (1966), Conversation (1981) and Fishing Village (1996), and he is featured in many other public, corporate and private collections in Jamaica and internationally.

Barrington Watson - Mother and Child (1958-59), Collection: NGJ

Barrington Watson – Mother and Child (1958-59), Collection: NGJ

Barrington Watson received many awards and accolades during his lifetime. These include the national orders, the Order of Distinction, Commander Class, in 1984, the Order of Jamaica in 2006, and the Institute of Jamaica’s Gold Musgrave Medal in 2000. The National Gallery of Jamaica honoured Barrington with a major retrospective in 2012, which was curated by the then Chief Curator Dr David Boxer and guest curator Claudia Hucke and presented as part of the National Gallery’s Jamaica 50 programme.

Barrington Watson - Barbara (c1962), Aaron and Marjorie Matalon Collection, NGJ

Barrington Watson – Barbara (c1962), Aaron and Marjorie Matalon Collection, NGJ

The National Gallery’s Chairman, Mr Peter Reid, lauded Barrington for his outstanding contribution to the development of Jamaican art, as an eminent artist and art educator and as a role model to many artists in Jamaica, the Caribbean and the African diaspora. He stated “Barrington is a true national icon and we will treasure his artistic legacy for many generations to come.” The National Gallery’s Executive Director Dr Veerle Poupeye added: “Barrington Watson was a defining figure in post-Independence Jamaican art and his work reflects the spirit and imagination of Independent Jamaica. He was instrumental in the professionalization of the Jamaican art world and an outspoken and influential voice in the development of modern art in Jamaica.” Barrington Watson served on the National Gallery Board for several years.

The Board, Management and Staff of the National Gallery of Jamaica pay tribute to Barrington Watson, as one of Jamaica’s greats, and extend their heartfelt condolences to his wife Doreen, his children Janice, Raymond, Basil, Bright and Shauna-Kay and his other family members and friends.

Barrington Watson at his Eastwood Park studio in 1967

Barrington Watson at his Eastwood Park studio in 1967

13 thoughts on “In Memoriam Barrington Watson (1931-2016)

  1. My deepest condolences to the Watson family. I am a great admirer of his works another contemporary Albert Huie and Edna Manley. John Bright

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  2. Wonderful memory for a man who capture the heart of many with his works. He will be remembered by some of his most prolific work.

  3. He is and will always be in many peoples heart and minds, his work lives on he has left his marks for even many new comers to see in the future. A great man never to be forgotten, he is now at peace.

  4. Pingback: In Memoriam: Barrington Watson (Jamaica, 1931-2016) | Repeating Islands

  5. Of all the Jamaican paintings we bought while living in Jamaica in the ’80s his “girl With a hat” is the one we treasure the most

  6. Pingback: Adios al gran artista plástico jamaiquino Barrington Watson - Nodal Cultura -

  7. Pingback: Jamaican Painter Barrington Watson Dies, Leaving Behind a Rich Visual Legacy · Global Voices

  8. A true national treasure. Although he wished to be considered an “artist” first and a Jamaican artist second, it is with out a doubt that Barrington Watson was a “great” Jamaican artist. Rest in Peace

  9. Pingback: World Creativity & Innovation Week: 8 Jamaican Painters Of Note | diGJamaica Blog

  10. The greatest of all Jamaican artist and a father to many of us whom he taught .He is well alive in me am sure and all that he has handed down to me over the last seven years will help to carry on the tradition of Jamaican painters.Sebastian Elliott

  11. Another Jamaican great has gone to rest, Barrington Watson will always be a national and international treasure evidenced in the many masterpieces which flowed from his perceptive mind to brush, to canvas. We thank God for his life.

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