Barrington: A Retrospective (January 8-April 14, 2012)

On January 9, 2011, Barrington Watson, the Jamaican master-painter celebrated his eightieth birthday. To mark the occasion and to mark nearly sixty years of the sustained growth and development of this unique artist, the National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ) mounted a retrospective exhibition of his work – titled Barrington: A Retrospective – which opened on the final day of his eightieth year, January 8, 2012. Barrington: A Retrospective is arguably the most ambitious exhibition ever staged by the NGJ and not only pays just tribute to this major Jamaican artist but also provides opportunities for the local and overseas promotion of Jamaican art and the work of the NGJ itself.

In a core exhibition at the NGJ itself and in two annex exhibitions held at the Bank of Jamaica and the Olympia International Art Centre, both in Kingston, a selection of two hundred and fifty-two of his works charts the major developments, both stylistically and thematically, of this Jamaican master. The paintings, which were borrowed from major collections in Jamaica and abroad, including some twenty works from the NGJ’s own holdings, are supported by choice examples of the artist’s graphic works: drawing and original prints.

The artist’s extensive oeuvre is was studied extensively by the curators to ensure that the choicest works are secured for the retrospective and there is a rich diet of masterworks including the NGJ’s own Mother and Child, Conversation, Athlete’s Nightmare, Washer Women and historical portraits of Norman Manley and Sir Alexander Bustamante.

Barrington Watson - Conversation (1981), Collection: NGJ

More on Barrington Watson

Professor the Honourable Barrington Watson, O.J. was born in Lucea, Hanover, in 1931. He was educated at the Royal College of Art, London (1958–1960) and continued his study of the works of European masters at the Rijksacademie, Amsterdam, the Academia de las Bellas Artes in Madrid and other major European art schools. He returned to Jamaica in 1962 to become the first Director of Studies at the Jamaica School of Arts and Crafts (now the Edna Manley College) and spearheaded a new curriculum which allowed graduating
artists to filter into the areas of teaching, advertising and television, as well as the conventional fine and applied arts. As the founding member of the Contemporary Jamaican Artist Association in 1964, along with his fellow painters Karl Parboosingh and Eugene Hyde, he quickly became one of the leading artists of the post-independence period in Jamaica, whose work represented a turning point in the development of Jamaica’s cultural and artistic aesthetic and professionalized the local artistic practice. His many accolades include the Institute of Jamaica’s Gold Musgrave Medal and the Order of Jamaica.

Barrington’s rich, Barrington’s rich, large-scale canvases deliver compelling visual impact with their dramatic compositions, and deft draftsmanship. His painterly manner with three-dimensional space is greatly influenced by the masters: in his own words, he utilizes “The light of Turner; the lines of Ingres; the range of Rembrandt; the techniques of Velasquez; the emotion of Goya and, (his) birthright of Benin.” in the representation of his country, its culture and the history of its people. He is Jamaica’s pre-eminent portrait artist, commissioned to paint local and international heads of state, as well as important civic and corporate leaders. His works appear in public, private and corporate collections throughout the world, including the collections of the National Gallery of Jamaica and the Bank of Jamaica.

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