Ernest W. Watson


Excerpted and adapted by Thomas A. D. Watson from the National Cyclopedia of American Biography

Ernest William Watson, artist and author, was born in Conway, Mass., Jan 14, 1884, the son of Daniel and Lucinda (Moody) Watson, who came to this country from England. His father was a weaver. Ernest W. Watson completed his preliminary education at the Monson (Mass.) Academy, was graduated in 1906 at the Massachusetts Normal Art School (now Massachusetts College of Art), Boston, and received an art teacher education degree in 1907 at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York, after a year of study there. From 1908 to 1929 he was a teacher of design, drawing, perspective and composition at Pratt, where he also supervised day and evening classes during 1919-1929. Ernest met his wife, Eva Auld Watson (1888 - 1948), when she attended one of his classes there. They were married on June 21st, 1911 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. They first lived in an apartment on Emerson Place in Brooklyn, later moving into one of the Pratt faculty houses at 181 Emerson Place.

In 1915 Ernest W. Watson co-founded the Berkshire Summer School of Art, Monterey, Mass., with Raymond P. Ensign. Watson continued active in the school during summers until 1927. Located at what had been a hilltop farm in Monterey, Massachusetts, the school stayed in existence until 1936.

In 1931 Watson became art editor of Scholastic Magazine, published in New York City, remaining in that capacity until 1937. Also in 1937, with Ralph Reinhold and Arthur L. Guptill, he founded Watson-Guptill Publications, Inc., New York City, of which he was vice-president until December, 1955. Watson-Guptill Publications was the first publishing firm in the United States to specialize in books that undertook to teach readers how to draw, paint, and work in sculpture and ceramics. It also published American Artist magazine, of which Watson was editor in chief until retiring as editor emeritus in 1955. During the early1960's he was a consultant on art books to the Reinhold Publishing Corp., New York City, and produced 15 books on drawing, perspective, composition and instruction, ten of them after his retirement.

Starting in 1913, the Joseph Dixon Crucible Company (now the Dixon Tionderoga Company), at the time a leading manufacturer of a popular brand of artists' pencils, commissioned Watson to execute monthly a full-page pencil drawing to advertise the merits of the company's product. In addition to the drawings, Watson was authorized to choose the subject of the drawing, and he usually wrote the brief informative texts for the advertisements, which appeared regularly in Pencil Points (later Progressive Architecture), School Arts, and other magazines. The commission, which lasted for twelve years, took him to Europe, England, Mexico, and sections of the United States and provided the opportunity for him to develop the creative pencil technique, Broadstroke, for which he became known.

By 1920, together with his first wife, Eva Auld Watson, also a gifted and accomplished artist, Ernest developed new techniques of color printmaking and organized traveling exhibitions for the display of their prints. His work was aquired by the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.. the New York Public Library, New York City, Brooklyn Museum, Baltimore Museum of Art, and the Albert H. Wiggin Print Collection of the Boston Public Library.

Watson was the author of a number of books, including three under the collective title of Course in Pencil Sketching, the first of which was Buildings and Streets (1956) and the other two were Trees and Landscapes and Boats and Harbors (1957). Other of his books were Linoleum Block Printing (1929), Pencil Drawing (1937), Color and Method in Painting (1942), Outdoor Sketching and Forty Illustrators and How They Work (1946), Twenty Painters and How They Work (1950), How to Use Creative Perspective (1955). Gallery of Pencil Techniques (1958), Composition in Landscape and Still Life (1959), Perspective for Sketchers (1964), Ernest W. Watson's Sketch Diary (1965), and The Art of Pencil Drawing (1968). He was co-author with Norman Kent of Watercolor Demonstrated (1945) and The Relief Print (1946) and with Aldren A. Watson of The Watson Drawing Book (1962). Throughout his active career he was deeply concerned with gaining greater attention for American artists, and he devoted a pioneering zeal in attaining this purpose. For his articles in American Artist, he interviewed more than 200 American artists in their homes or studios, and it was Watson's interview with Andrew Wyeth, reported in September, 1942, in Watson's feature article accompanied by reproductions of Wyeth's watercolors and sketches, that won for Wyeth one of his first national acclamations. During the winter of 1962 Watson and his second wife, Eve Brian, held scholarships to the Huntington Hartford Foundation in Rustic Canyon, Pacific Palisades, CA., where they completed work on The Watson Drawing Book. Watson was the recipient in 1959 of the Gari Melchers Gold Medal of Artists Fellowship, Inc. In May, 1965, as Art Teacher Education, Class 1907, he was honored by the Pratt Institute Alumni with an award and gold medal for distinguished service to his alma mater and to the professions of art, education, and publishing. He was a member of the National Sculpture Society, Society of Illustrators, and the Salmagundi Club of New York City. His religious affiliation was with The Riverside Church, New York City. Politically he was a Republican. He was married twice, the first time in Pittsburgh, PA, June 21, 1911, to Eva Mansfield, daughter of Cassius Auld. His first wife died in 1948. His second marriage was in NewYork City April 9, 1949, to Eve Brian, daughter of Andrew Thursten Brian. By his first marriage Ernest Watson had two sons: Lyn (Merlin) Auld Watson and Aldren Auld Watson.

Ernest W. Watson died in New Rochelle, New York, Jan. 23, 1969.

Ernest W. Watson and his wife Eva were the first of three generations of professional artists, including their son Aldren Auld Watson, and their grandchildren, Thomas A.D. Watson, Wendy Watson, and N. Cameron Watson. Please visit the links page for more information.

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Berkshire Summer School of Art