Many contentious issues have arisen in the fifty-six years since the death of David Waterson and the forty-two years since his wife died.  This expanding Virtual Exhibition will seek to lay to rest a few ghosts and to justify the comment made by the then President and founder member of the Painters-Etchers and Engravers Society, Sir Seymour Haden who, after having seen an exhibition of his works in London in the early 1900’s exclaimed, “Here at last is genius.” A compliment indeed when one considers the many famous artists of the time!

There have been many exhibitions but none I feel as important as the 2012 Cultural Olympiad Exhibition where a major Scottish Gallery has agreed in principle to host what could be, a truly inspirational event.  David Waterson was indeed an Olympian among artists, proficient in many mediums including etchings, dry-points, silver-points, mezzotints, monotypes, pen & ink drawings, pencil drawings, portraits, oil paintings, water colours, pastels and figure studies, not to mention the five hundred poems he penned.

A few of the more easily decipherable are highlighted and our early research has uncovered a treasure trove of verse that may yet prove Waterson’s literary genius to be on a par with that of his painting.  David Waterson’s deepest and constant engagement with his surroundings is most certainly reflected not only in his art work but also in his poetry that deals with as many subjects as the mediums he painted in – politics, mythology, breaking the Sabbath, Taranty Market, and of course no poetic collection would be complete without mood, emotion and most of all – romance!  This teasing verse of the mystery shepherdess from up the glen, one of many!

And when you to our forest haste
A hunting from those starry banks
Our names are cut on the beech trunk lest
You miss our thanks

It is hoped at some point to establish the David Waterson Gallery in Brechin thus fulfilling one of Mrs Waterson’s dearest wishes.  Many people have already donated works for the Gallery.  We are for the moment committed to gathering together as complete a collection of David Waterson’s works as possible

A local David Waterson Gallery would open up all sorts of possibilities, introducing art to the young and attracting art lovers from across the globe to witness, not only the works of David Waterson but to experience the architecture, heritage and historic ‘old world’ charm that I’m sure was a contributory factor to David returning to his roots and at the same time turning his back on ‘broader artistic circles.’

Mrs Waterson’s moving presentation speech, when she gifted 45 of her husband’s works to his fellow citizens, stated that this was to be known for all time as the David Waterson Memorial Collection and hung as a permanent exhibition, a wish which we also support.  The majority of other images are from private collectors to whom the nation is deeply indebted.

The kindness, encouragement, enthusiasm and help, freely given by all of the UK’s major Galleries have to be acknowledged, for without their generosity, good will and accommodating nature this Virtual Exhibition would not have been possible.

Peploe in one of his many letters to his good friend Cadell said,

“Tis Beauty alone that lives forever; all the rest is nothingness and is soon forgotten.  When you seek beauty you seek the very heart of things and when you touch Beauty you are one with life itself – immortal”

Alex Small, Town Clerk of Brechin, wrote to Mrs. Waterson the day after David Waterson died,

“Mr. Waterson was a most modest man, shy and retiring and known only to a few: this was probably inevitable in a man so bound up in the exercise of his artistic skill and so driven by his creative genius.  He had a sparkling sense of humour in which his intimate friends delighted and he had an abiding love for his native city.  Mr. Waterson will be remembered in Brechin and abroad as long as we have an eye for the beautiful – an eye to see, through his eyes and in his works, the beauty that lies all around us”

Monet once explained that he had no study, only the fields, echoed in R W Stewart’s obituary and by Ann Waterson when she said –

“I venture to think that some among you here and elsewhere are glad that my husband elected to stay in his native city working quietly and unobtrusively holding fast to his belief that Beauty is one of the eternal verities.  And everywhere he found Beauty – in the marvelous shapes and colours of the tiniest of God’s creatures that the microscope revealed; in the rounded limbs and laughing eyes of a little child; in the toil-worn face and tragic eyes of an old tinker woman; in glorious buildings like Notre Dame in Paris; in the closes of a mediaeval town where many would see only poverty and decay and most of all perhaps in the beauties of the Scottish landscape especially the hills and glens and rivers of this lovely county of Angus.”

David Waterson kept what he called Nature Diaries and we are privileged to have been allowed to photograph some of the pages from his 1920-1930 diaries, entrusted to Brechin man, Mike Mitchell for safe-keeping; several of his magnificent water colours from the diary notes are also highlighted and the diaries we hope will become a separate research project.

David Waterson kept many newspaper clippings and other notes in the diaries; for example under the press clipping of his marriage he wrote “She married me!” His diaries also reveal that he was painting up the glen the day before and two days after he was married!  A rather poignant and revealing verse of 17 May 1924, a few months before his marriage –

O sorrow of love
Of dream and longing
There is sorrow upon me
That I am here

We are also indebted to Dr Ian Fallows from Yorkshire for his contribution to this exhibition and in particular the portrait etching of his aunt Mrs. Helen Taggart (Aunt Nellie) “a memory of Tristan and Isolde” in the Paris Opera House.

Dr Fallows added that he could confirm the date of the trip as July 1909, the same month that the whole of Paris was agog with excitement at the news of Louis Bleriot becoming the first man to fly an aeroplane across the channel.  David Waterson spent some time in Paris 1903, 1907, 1909, 1912 and given his several drawings we assume that he lived and worked mostly in the Latin Quarter.

Dr Fallows further enlightened me that whilst he agreed David Waterson was on very friendly terms with the Taggarts, he had it on good authority that David had more than a fondness of his mother, Ann Munro; just as I was about to make the comment that I thought the fascination might have been with Ann’s sister Helen, who married Brechin High School Headmaster, James Taggart, son of Sir James, Lord Mayor of Aberdeen.  Dr Fallows also very kindly gave us copies of “Tibby’s story books.”

The Taggarts were a prominent family in Brechin – Tibby (Isabella,) James and Helen Taggart’s daughter, became a well known and well respected teacher at Brechin’s Andover School and knew David Waterson well; David Waterson’s affection for the young Tibby is clearly evident in his story books (joint effort between artist and pupil) and his portraits.

I should think that in all probability James Taggart may have introduced David Waterson and Ann Wallis, Ann having joined Brechin High School staff in 1908 where James Taggart took up the post of Physics Master in 1902, later appointed Head in 1912.  Given Mrs. Waterson’s obituary and the fact that all the Taggart family members had connections to the teaching profession we can only imagine the many stimulating and thought-provoking conversations.

Brother-in-law James Strachan, tutor to the Royal Princes at Osborne House would have added further stimulus, a poor quality photo from 1905 shows family members having tea on the lawn at Osborne House, Tibby only a few years old at the time.

Brechin nonagenarian, Meg Napier and Tibby’s best friend, confirmed that Tibby was never away from Bridgend House where David had his studio and recalls many Sunday evenings spent with the Taggarts and Mrs Waterson in excited debates mostly of the political challenges of the time.

My own inquisitiveness was drawn to the artist when an advert appeared in the local press, Sept 1993 asking for information of a portrait of a young girl by David Waterson.  Coincidence would have it that I came upon the portrait soon after, at an art auction outside Perth, en route for a weekend at Aviemore – the portrait turned out to be that of Tibby Taggart and was lucky enough to make the purchase!

Early in 2006 I received an anonymous letter enclosing a press clipping of 1984 that led me to carry out extensive research; a copy of its findings was deposited in Brechin Library “early research” and a further 60 or so copies have been widely distributed.

This Virtual Exhibition embraces countless individual collections and several from larger Institutions and with the inevitability of further research and in order to preserve the integrity of the collections, there will be some areas where duplication is inevitable, the etching of Braik’s Close just one example where you see a wee dog in one and not the other!  There are also a few examples of the various stages of his mezzotint development, “A Piping Shepherd” a good example.

“There is a divinity that shapes our ends rough hew them as we will” and it was no coincidence that David Waterson became a born and bred Brechiner.  The DWT had been anxious to trace the biographical sketch of David Waterson written by his wife Ann and as luck would have it, we were recently presented with a copy of a 1986 article from our local newspaper quoting from the sketch.  We are confident that the sketch will turn up and will be added to the web site as soon as we locate it.  Snippets from the article can be accessed via the menu on the home page.

Coincidentally, we were also fortunate enough to have been given a photo of a 1911 David Waterson oil painting, at the same time as the newspaper article, painted to commemorate the amalgamation of the United Co-operative Association and the Equitable Co-operative Society – David Yule, Trustee; David Waterson’s uncle centre of picture.

We must however for the moment concentrate our efforts on David Waterson the artist and are positive that David and his wife Ann would have shared our view that art treasures should be shared by all.

It is a privilege and an honour, to present this expanding “David Waterson Virtual Exhibition” and on behalf of David Waterson, his wife Ann and the David Waterson Trust, we extend a very warm welcome to this global audience and in doing so echo the words of Sir Seymour Haden when he exclaimed

“Here at last – is genius”
John Ritchie
David Waterson Trust
April 2010