Props to Watkins

WR Watkins usually took a straightforward approach to his nude portraits — the model and a chair, bed or stool. But back in the day he used props more frequently. We just noticed this recurring piece of pottery in three of his paintings, two from the 1930s and one from the 1950s.

three paintings with pottery

Looks like a tomato or strawberry vase. The middle one has a particularly nice gloss effect for watercolor. Just another Watkins touch, such focus on detail in a figure study.

watkins pottery close-ups

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WR Watkins’ studio, c1920

WR Watkins painted from the live model, but he occasionally took photographs for visual reference. From one of his few surviving prints of the early 1920s, we found this narrow view of his studio.

WR Watkins studio c1920s

His glass negative dry plates sometimes turn up on ebay.

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This is not Watkins

WR Watkins matchbook

We’re 99% certain this is a different guy.

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WR Watkins’ imposing reputation precedes him

Found this article in two Maryland newspapers, The Daily Mail and The Morning Herald, from January 23, 1933. WR Watkins is listed as one of three Baltimore artists to jury an exhibition at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.

Here he gets his own special shout out:

“The third member of the jury, Mr. William R. Watkins, instructor in painting at the Maryland Institute, is a member of the Charcoal Club, a graduate of the Maryland Institute, and has an imposing reputation as a watercolorist.”

WR Watkins judges museum exhibit in 19331933 Watkins judges museum exhibit

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Watkins in pencil

This 10″ x 13″ sketch of a reclining nude, c1930, is the only pencil drawing by WR Watkins that we’ve come across so far. It’s up for sale on ebay this week.

WR Watkins pencil nude

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WR Watkins darkly

This painting titled ‘Seated Nude Woman’ came up for auction recently at Martin Gordon Auctions. A rare dark palette in oil for WR Watkins, c1930. The solid triangular compostion and close cropping seem to impose an iconic weight on the model.

Seated Nude Woman

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… and four’s a crowd

We found a fourth painting of the mystery blonde from the 1930’s. We’ve already highlighted three other paintings in a previous post. This new one seems the most confident and direct of the bunch, definitely a modern, lean-forward attitude.

blonde woman on bed (1930s)

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WR Watkins article from ‘Figure Drawing’ web site

The web site Figure Drawing has a nice article on Watkins’ paintings.

figure drawing website

“His figure studies are carefully observed … Notice the careful rendering of form and notice also the care that went into these paintings. Watercolor is a tricky medium, that is you can’t go back and correct your work so the care that went into these paintings is evident in the unity of color, nothing seems overworked or out of place in the finished work.”

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WR Watkins painting loaned to museums in 1954-56

A traveling exhibit of 25 contemporary artists curated by Grumbacher opened January 1954 at Grand Central Galleries in New York City. It was loaned for exhibit to museums and galleries across the country, including Los Angeles and San Francisco. This article in the Long Beach, California, Independent Press Telegram from Sunday, February 12, 1956 lists W. Reginald Watkins among the artists:
1956 Watkins traveling exhibition

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Watkins’ bucolic backyard?

A WR Watkins watercolor landscape from 1933 is up for auction this Sunday, March 29. It’s titled ‘Backyard Landscape’ and shows a rural scene with tree, shed, picket fence and birdbath. Based on the title, could this be a view of Watkins’ own bucolic backyard?

Check out for more details.

March 29 auction details

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Three’s company

We recognize this blonde model in several of Watkins’ paintings from the 1930s. Obviously he saw something he liked. We’re guessing it was the hair?

three blonde models

three blondes (close up)

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WR Watkins gives painting demonstration in 1966

Found this notice in an old Baltimore newspaper from May 26, 1966. WR Watkins was 76 yrs. old at the time!

“A watercolor demonstration by Mr. W Reginald Watkins, outstanding Baltimore painter and teacher, on Tuesday at 7:30 pm begins the series.

Mr. Watkins is well-known for his lectures and demonstrations on painting. Since 1941, he has been giving demonstrations throughout Maryland as well as New York City. He holds the Grumbacher Award of Merit for Outstanding Contributions to the Arts for his many painting demonstrations …

His paintings have been exhibited at all the important galleries in Baltimore as well as many galleries in New York, Philadelphia and throughout the country.

1966 newspaper notice

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Two who knew

Wish we could find more anecdotes about WR Watkins’ life. These two comments come from the discussion board for Watkins:

“I studied under him at his home in Baltimore in 1967 and 1968. I remember him best for his pastels of rainy night scenes. I fondly remember having tea with him in his kitchen which was like sitting in a Delt teapot.”

“I remember meeting Mr Watkins & his wife while doing telephone work in his home (The Beverly Hills section of Baltimore) in the early 1970’s. My wife & I came back & bought a painting from him (The Pear Tree). That painting still hangs in our dining room. I remember him being a very kind & patient man.”

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WR, by any other name …

His full name is William Reginald Watkins. Newspapers and gallery announcements refer to him as W Reginald Watkins. He signed his paintings variously as WR Watkins, W Reginald Watkins or just plain Watkins as he got older. And his friends called him Reggie.

Three Watkins signatures

Complicates the googling.

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