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Barrington Watson: Capturing the Beauty of Culture

Written by  //  May 2, 2011  //  Art Category  //  6 Comments

Dance of the Maroons, by Barrington Watson

Barrington Watson: Capturing the Beauty of Culture

“I utilize the light of Turner, the line of Ingres, the range of Rembrandt, the techniques of Velasquez, the emotion of Goya, and my birthright of Benin.”

Barrington Watson, a Jamaican master painter, is world renowned for creating beautiful portraits that capture the spirit of the black race. Over the past 50 years, he has become an expert of the human form. He gives his paintings the perfect lighting and texture through the use of compound mediums and captures complex emotion and detail due to years of extensive study.

Watson was born in Lucea, Jamaica in the parish of Hanover, on January 9, 1931. He loved art at a young age and felt called to follow his passion despite his parents desire for him to become a lawyer. The artist started his college career as an athlete at Kingston College in Jamaica, but eventually decided to follow his heart to pursue art overseas. Watson traveled to England to study at the London School of Printing and Graphic Art and from there he was accepted to the Royal College of Art. His diverse art schooling took him to art academies in Amsterdam, Madrid, Rome, and Paris where he studied African, Asian, European and American artwork. He took this newly acquired worldliness and partnered it with his love for the Caribbean, to create paintings that stand out among other island artwork.

In 1961, he returned to Jamaica and was hired as an art appreciation professor at the University of the West Indies. Watson then became the first director of studies for the Jamaica School of Art in 1962. He grew passionate towards nurtured aspiring young artists, but never let go of his dream of becoming a professional artist. In the late 1960s he began to gain widespread popularity as a painter.



Through his artwork, Watson details the history, culture and story of the black race. Watson has painted portraits of black historical figures such as Fredrick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, W.E.B. Du Bois, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Yet he is most well known for painting the female form. Through his abundant works that feature the female form, it is apparent that he has a high respect and regard for women.

It is also clear that this talented artist wants to capture the heart of Jamaica and its people. He paints figures dressed in traditional Jamaican clothing and fills the backdrops of his paintings with bright tones that encapsulate the vibrant atmosphere of the Caribbean. 

His paintings come to life through a variety of mediums including oils, pencil, crayon, pen and watercolor. Watson also uses the careful layering of color to create the beautiful variety of skin tones in his work.  He fuses European style and techniques with Caribbean landscapes and figures to form his original style. Renowned Jamaican Lawyer, Businessman, and Public Service Official Patrick Rousseau has spoken highly of Watson:

“[Watson is] a brilliant portrait artist, without question the best in the West Indies, he produces with equal skill, landscapes and other subjects. But it is his obsession with the human form that generates his best work: full of life, vitality and movement. Many of his subjects seem ready to walk off the canvas and disappear into the surrounding area,” (seen on

Watson has always focused on the importance of the development of the art community in Jamaica and has advocated for building more art institutions on the islands. In 1964, he founded the Contemporary Jamaican Artists Association, which promoted art as a social vehicle for change. Watson was one of three artists active in the association; his partners were Jamaican Painters Eugene Hyde and Karl Parboosingh. Today, Watson is the only surviving founder of the association and still operates the Contemporary Art Center, which he established in the early 1980s.

The master painter has also created Gallery Barrington in 1974, the Jamaica Art Foundation in 1985, the Orange Park Trust in 1991 and the Pan-Africanists Committee in 1998.

Watson has written several books such as “Shades of Grey,” which speaks of life through an artist’s eyes and how to become a successful painter, and “Barrington: 50 Years of drawing 1958-2008,” which depicts more than 200 drawings dating back to 1958, many of which are displayed in private collections and are not normally accessible to the public.

Barrington Watson continues to make history as he paints and teaches from his Orange Park Studios gallery in St. Thomas.

-Morgan King

6 Comments on "Barrington Watson: Capturing the Beauty of Culture"

  1. Lawrence S. Cumming December 28, 2011 at 12:59 PM · Reply

    Thank-you for this excellent summary.

    I am wondering if you know anything about Mr. Watson’s attendance at informal art classed offered at the Institute of Jamaica during the late 1940s. I am asking this with regard to research I have been doing on the work of my late aunt Vera Cumming who taught there during that period.

    Lawrence S. Cumming

  2. Phillipa (nee)Browne January 5, 2012 at 4:08 AM · Reply

    B Barrington Watson painted my portrait around 1960 in Shepherds Bush, London, after I saw an exhibition of paintings in the Commonwealth Institutute, Kensington, London. I still have it.

  3. Barrington Watson February 16, 2012 at 10:08 PM · Reply

    I am always asked if i am related to Mr. Barrington Watson the great Jamaican artis, and i always so no. However, i think i was wrong, seeing that he and share and was given the same tallent with our hands, “Art”. Seeing Mr. Watson’s works, makes me want to ehance my skills and tallent with drawing/art. I will love if someone/anyone could send me information relating to Mr Watson, as well as pictures of his work. You may do so by sending the imformation to this E-Mail Address:

  4. Angela June 14, 2012 at 9:10 AM · Reply

    Hi – i have an orginal ink painting by Barrington Watson 1969 , would you know where i could get it valued? Thanks

  5. Carol Baxter October 5, 2014 at 4:43 AM · Reply

    Can you advise me how I can get orginal oil on canvas paintings by Barrington Watson and other famous Jamaican artists valued?

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