The Watson Archive
This exhibition of designs and cartoons by James Watson & Son, a stained-glass studio that flourished in Youghal in the nineteenth & twentieth centuries, allows visitors to the Crawford Art Gallery to appreciate some of the challenges facing Ireland’s national cultural institutions today. The Watson Archive was acquired at auction in December 2014.
Consisting of over one thousand works on paper, including records, account books and other material, the Watson Archive is visibly in urgent need of conservation and restoration.
These wonderful drawings and designs are now part of the permanent collection of the Crawford Art Gallery, and so will be cared for, but their extremely fragile condition underlines the need for additional resources to be made available to the Gallery, to preserve an important part of Ireland’s national visual arts heritage.
For many years, the Watson stained glass studio was a by-word for artistic excellence. In the 1880s, attracted by the growth in church building in Ireland, James Watson, originally from Yorkshire, settled in Ireland. Having worked with stained glass over many generations, the Watsons were well-placed to carry out commissions for windows for churches, both Catholic and Protestant, and for other buildings.
Although the workshop survived until recently, and was maintained by successive generations of the Watson family, much of the firm’s finest work was done in the early years of the 20th century, as can be seen in the designs and drawings displayed here, some of which date back to the 1890s.
Exhibition Curator: Vera Ryan
Assisted by Philip, Alex, Wendie, Fiona, Kathryn and Rebecca.
With special thanks to Deirdre Hewetson and Dr. Julian Campbell.