Dawson Dawson-Watson

The apple does not fall far from the tree for Dawson Dawson-Watson (1864-1939). Born in London to John Dawson-Watson, a celebrated English artist and illustrator, Dawson-Watson spent his childhood surrounded by artistic genius in the popular artist neighborhood of St. John’s Wood.

With his artistic talents emerging at an early age, Dawson-Watson began his mentoring with American artist Mark Fisher and later studied under several famous painters in Paris. It was in Paris where Dawson-Watson learned to be proficient in many mediums, including oil, watercolor, mezzotint, engraving and even word carving, a skill he used to create frames for his own paintings.

Soon, Dawson-Watson joined the impressionist artists’ colony in Giverny, France at the home of Claude Monet. He was drawn to Giverny for its rural settings and picturesque villages, which were depicted in his landscape and figural impressionist paintings that were marked with lively brushwork and powerful colorations of purples, violets and yellows.

Upon the urging of American artist James Carrol Beckworth, Dawson-Watson arrived in the United States around 1893 and spent the next three decades traveling the northeastern states, working as an art director for various artistic societies, a teacher for art colonies and universities, and a stage designer and constructor. It was not until 1926 that Dawson-Watson was called to Texas to settle permanently and compete in the Texas Wildflower Painting Competition held in San Antonio. The Texas Wildflower Competition was a competitive exhibition of oil paintings offering an award of $5,000 for the best picture of the wildflowers of Texas, the largest single award ever given in an American competitive exhibition.

Dawson-Watson painted nearly seventy pictures of his favorite Texas wildflower, the cactus. The landscapes of Texas growing on him, Dawson-Watson became a passionate admirer of the cactus, having said, “I worship it… kiss my hand to its tiniest bloom. I’ve painted it inside out, upside down, and crosswise.” His chosen entry to the competition was names The Glory of the Morning, and was said to be painted based on a setting just off Fredericksburg Road near Camp Bullis, Texas. Of the three hundred paintings submitted to the competition, it was the humble cactus painted among the soft backdrop of the Texas Hill country in The Glory of the Morning that won the $5,000 prize and solidified Dawson-Watson’s residency in San Antonio, Texas.

For the remainder of his life in San Antonio, Dawson-Watson was celebrated for his cacti paintings and Texas landscapes. Some of his later works returned too his figural painting style, with several paintings focused on cotton pickers as his subject matter. One of his figural paintings, titled The Cotton Pickers, earned Dawson-Watson his second prize in 1929 at the Wildflower competition.

During the last decade of his life, Dawson-Watson established a permanent studio in the city and became a significant member of the San Antonio arts community. His aid in raising funds for the San Antonio With museum during the Great Depression and selling paintings for other local disasters that occurred within the San Antonio community earned him the reputation of being devoted to both the Texas artistic community and Texas itself.