Gone to paint the sky.
Barrington Watson, A Day in Bed, Oil on Canvas, 1959,
Collection: National Gallery of Jamaica.
How the artist is perceived is essential to the value of the work he creates. Controlling the brand in order to remain true to his calling and not be misguided by a fickle marketplace is important.
Barrington, Professor, The Honourable Basil Barrington Watson, OJ. (1931 - 2016) defied the myth of the anti-society artist. He was 'society'. He understood clearly that he had a role to play in newly independent Jamaica and that it would not be the artist as romantic, self-destructive icon controlled by magnates or important wives or institutionalism.
Was he financially motivated when creating work? Not initially, for his iconic work would never have sold but to the rare collectors who saw the beauty and power of his Mother and Child, (1959) and hung the black child sitting on the potty over their living room couch. Even his sculpture “Trust” which resides at the Bank of Jamaica is seminal, permanent, albeit forgotten as the centerpiece of the island’s first important national collection.
Yes, he did "go into production” with every nude and every woman with the diaphanous skirt, but the crowd clamored for more and only in that way he would play to them.
Why mention Parboosingh wearing his Bally's? Because he wanted to defy his father’s generational notion that artists were “tear-batty-clothes” people. Why wear tweeds in the tropics, drive continental automobiles, smoke pipes? Because he knew his innate urbanity would evoke his students’ respect for their own profession. Was he insular? Yes. His studio was miles away and high above the idle crowd. Was he insular? No. The parties and the salons and the shows and tennis tournaments would attest to that.
Selfish?, Sensual? Of course. His real priority was always and only to create works that worked. But he welcomed back all his ‘children’ for restorations and missing signatures and was delighted to recognize them wherever they had traveled to. When innovation seemed de rigeur, he stuck to his paintbrushes and palette. When blindness threatened, he returned to landscape painting to burnish his eyesight. And in between he commissioned books that entertained, informed and educated. And all the while the Master Painter remained relevant and appeared timeless and so preserved the brand that is inimitably rare and unmistakably Barrington.
His soul now rests in peace.
His legacy will live forever.