Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. III


The Mound.] GEORGE WATSON, P.R.S.A. 91 of John Watson of Overmains, in Berwickshire, his mother being Frances Veitch, of the Elliock fimily. He was a cousin of Sir Walter Scott?s, and was born in I 767. He studied art under Nasmyth and Sir Joshua Reynolds, and before the time of his election had won a high reputation as a portrait painter. From 1808 to 1812 he was President of the Associated Artists of Scotland. His brother, Captain Watson, R.N., was the, father of Sir John Watson-Gordon, also a president of the Academy ; and his nephew, William Stewart Watson, was an artist of some repute, whose chief work is the ?? Inauguration of Burns as Poet Laureate or Grand Bard,? now in the Masonic Hall, George Street, and, as a collection of portraits, is historically curious. George Watson?s son, W. Smellie Watson, was also R.S.A., and died in No. 10 Forth Street in 1874, the same house in which his father had held some early exhibitions about the close of the last century or beginning of the present. ? The President and Council resolved that the first exhibition of their infant Academy should take place early in February, 1827, in two large galleries which they rented, in 24 Waterloo Place, for three months at eighty guineas, and subsequently at one hundred and thirty pounds per annum. Opposed by those who should have aided it, the Academy had a hard struggle for a time in the first years of its existence. Application was made to the Home Secretary, the future Sir Robert Peel, for . a charter of incorporation, and it was favourably viewed by those in office, and submitted to the Lord Advocate. Eut though the application was generously and warmly seconded by Sir Thomas Lawrence, then President of the Royal Academy of London, it was put off for two years, ?and ultimately refused,? says Sir George Harvey ?? on grounds which the Academy could never learn; and though they applied for permission to do so, they were never allowed to peruse the document which induced his lordship to decide against their claim. . . . Curiously enough, although the request of the Academy for a charter of incorporation was at this time denied, the Institution had that distinction conferred upon it, and henceforth came to be designated the Royal Institution.? The first general exhibition of the Scottish Academy being advertised for February, 1827, ? the Royal Institution, under the immediatepatronage of His Mq>siY,?? was, in a spirit of genuine opposition, advertised to open at the same time ; but by the time of the third Exhibition, ? the Royal Institution,? says Sir George, ?? was fairly driven out of the field ; ? and among the contributors were the future Sir Francis Grant, John Linnell, and John Martin, and one of Etty?s magnificent works, now the property of the Academy, was for the first time hung upon its walls, while many Scottish artists in London or elsewhere, watched with patriotic interest the progress of art in their native land, and the Institution rapidly began to take a subordinate position ; and by a minute of the 10th July, 1829, twenty-four of its artists, weary of its rule, were admitted as members of the Scottish Academy, thus raising the numerical force of the latter to thirty-nine. Eventually the number of Academicians became forty-two. In the rank of Associate Engravers was the well-known William Lizars, for as the law stood then he could not be elected an Academician, engravers being then limited to the position of Associate, but after a time they were rendered eligible to occupy any rank in the Academy. George Watson, the first President of the Scottish Academy, died on the 24th of August, 1837, at No. 10 Forth Street, in his seventieth year. For a long time previously his occupation of the chair had been nominal, his age and declining health precluding his attendance at council meetings- A white marble slab in the west .wall of the West Kirkyard marks his grave and that of ? Rebecca. Smellie, his spouse, who died 5th May, 1839, aged 74 years.? In the subsequent November William Allan, RA. (afterwards knighted), was elected president, and during his term .of office the long-desired object was accomplished, and the Academy came to be designated at last ?The Royal Scottish Academy,? incorporated by royal charter on the 13th of August, 1838, consisting now of thirty Academicians and twenty Associates-a consummation of their wishes for which they were greatly indebted to the warm and earnest interest of Lord Cockburn. By its charter the Academy is to consist of artists by profession, being men of fair moral character and of high repute in art, settled and resident in Scotland at the dates of their elections. It ordains that, there shall be an annual exhibition of paintings, sculptures, and designs, in which all artists.of distinguished merit may be permitted to exhibit their works, to continue open six weeks or longer. It likewise ordains that so soon as the funds of the Academy will allow it, there shall be in the Royal Scottish Academy professors of painting, sculpture,, architecture, perspective, and anatomy, elected according to the laws framed for the Royal Academy of London; and that there shall be schools to provide the means of studying the human form with respect both to anatomical knowledge and taste of
Volume 3 Page 91
  Shrink Shrink   Print Print