||Attributed to Charles Watson, Flowers in a Vase, about 1885, watercolour.
Gifted in 1996 by Edward and John Guard, from estate of Herman Albert Guard (known as "Albert"), cousin of the attributed artist.
Descendants of New Zealand's first commercial whaler John (Jacky) Guard lived in relative isolation at Kakapo Bay, near Port Underwood. They traditionally lived frugally and were not given to acquiring art, unless it was a family piece. This treasured watercolour on paper hung in the best bedroom at the front of the old house, where away from the ruinous effects of Marlborough's sunlight, its colours remained bright.
Several members of the Guard family painted, using any materials that came to hand. This delightful view of flowers including peonies, berries and leaves has a childlike quality to the drawing. But the modelling of the flowers, and colours mixed with Chinese white paint making the watercolour opaque, suggests the painter had some practice.
When it was gifted, it was said to have been painted by a grandson of Jacky Guard. He had many grandsons but this has been attributed to his youngest daughter Susan's son Charles Watson, because its bright opaque colours are similar to a painting he did in 1885 when he was sixteen years old. That painting also hung in the Guard home at Kakapo Bay until the family gifted it in 1984 to Te Papa Museum of New Zealand.
Charles Watson was born in 1869, probably at White's Bay where his father Charles worked at the Telegraph Office sending and receiving messages in Morse code. The family left Marlborough in the 1870s, moved to Masterton and then to Wellington. Young Charles became a jockey but in 1885 was convicted of theft of a silver watch and chain in Wellington and sentenced to a year in prison. Boys were kept separate from the men prisoners, and further research may reveal that Charles learned to paint during this time. Watson later moved to Greymouth as caretaker at Victoria Park Trotting Club.
Label for Hidden Gems exhibition July to September 2014 written by Jane Vial, Guest Curator.