WATSON, JAMES

(d. 1790)

Mezzotint Engraver

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

Was brother of William Watson (q.v.), and was born in Dublin in, or before, 1740. He received his early training in the schools of the Dublin Society. He went to London as a young man, and there learned mezzotint engraving, probably from his fellow-countryman, James McArdell. In 1764 he was at Craven Buildings, Drury Lane; the following year in Great Portland Street, and afterwards, for many years, in Little Queen Anne Street, near Portland Chapel. He exhibited mezzotints at the Society of Artists from 1762 to 1775. His published prints date from perhaps as early as 1760; a few were published by himself, but most were issued by the various print-sellers. He became one of the leading mezzotinters of his day, and produced a large number of plates, about 160 portraits, besides views and historical and fancy pieces. His work is distinguished by delicacy and careful finish, and his long series of prints after Reynolds, fifty-six in all, interpret the master with wonderful beauty and refinement. He was exceedingly sensitive and scrupulous about the quality of his work, and would begin a fresh plate rather than alter or retouch one that he was not satisfied with. He worked hard, and realized sufficient to enable him to retire from his profession some years before his death. He married a sister of Elizabeth Judkins who learned mezzotint engraving from him. His son, James Edward, became a successful barrister, and his daughter Caroline was famous as a stipple engraver. Watson died at his house in Fitzroy Street on 20th May, 1790, and was buried in Marylebone cemetery.

His daughter, CAROLINE WATSON, born in 1760 or 1761, was trained by him as an engraver. She worked in the stipple method, and produced a great number of plates, all exquisite and accomplished examples of the art. She translated the art of Reynolds, Romney and Hoppner, and the miniatures of Conway and others, with singular refinement and effect. She was appointed engraver to Queen Caroline in 1785. She died on 10th June, 1814, and was buried at Marylebone, where there is a tablet to her memory.

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