Adele Watson moved to Southern California as a young girl but her interest in art soon took her to the ateliers of New York and Paris. In 1905 Watson enrolled at New York's Art Students League. During the 1910s Adele Watson's work reflected the influence of Arthur B. Davies whose tendency toward lyricism found fertile ground in Watson's work.

As she matured Watson's painting began to reflect different influences and, while she never abandoned poetic, idyllic thinking, the harmonies she sought to convey became more compelling. Watson befriended Kahlil Gibran who wrote the poetic essays in The Prophet. With Gibran, Watson shared an appreciation for the beauty and power of nature. Given Gibran's allegorical approach to writing and Davies' lyrical approach to painting, it is not surprising that Watson responded to the tenets of symbolism, which aspired to articulate a reality beyond the mundane, one which transcended physical existence. Watson's own examination of spirituality resulted in symbolist images where human kind and nature are one.

In Protection female figures are embraced by the mountains and the sky. In placing nude figures on the land, Watson explores humankind in its most natural state, emphasizing the relationship to and dependency on nature. Notice that the two women share the same facial features and body type. Do they symbolize archetypal humans? Do they represent two sides of the same human spirit? The figure in front is clearly kneeling and grounded; the figure behind is ambiguous in its placement and finish. Is she emerging from the earth? Is this the embrace of the self?

Watson and other symbolists looked to nature for self-examination and enlightenment. In part a reaction against growing industrialization, these artists were attempting to locate and make manifest some deeper meaning beyond realistic, surface rendering. It is possible that Protection is about nature as creator/protector as well as an illustration of both the physical and spiritual side of humankind. In 1930 Watson spent time in Zion National Park in Utah and it was after that trip that her paintings took on a more anthropomorphic posture. In the later paintings, man's relationship with nature becomes conflated as human figures emerge from rock formations and mountain forms acquire human faces. Wings take on a particular importance for Watson as they are symbols of life's internal force-they hold up the heart. In Protection wing forms are suggested by the cloud formations . In her later paintings these subtle suggestions take on a more obvious position.

As was true for many symbolists, color was an important part of Watson's compositions. She commonly used blue, which was thought to represent hope contemplation,  fidelity, faith and eternity.

Adele Watson moved to Pasadena, California in 1917 and lived there until her death at the age of 73. Like many women artists of her time, Watson never married and was in fact quite cynical about the institution, stating to her sister: I guess the only happy people are the ones who have work to do and are quite finished with the opposite sex or care lightly. Watson exhibited frequently in New York and was the subject of one person exhibitions at the Toledo Museum of Art, the San Diego Museum of Art and the Los Angeles County Museum.

 

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Adele Watson (1873 - 1947) United States

ADELE WATSON

Protection

c. 1920’s, oil on board, 19.5” x 15”