TABLE OF CONTENTSCollection Summary
John William Hurrell Watts fonds:
John William Hurrell Watts was born on September 16, 1850, in Teignmouth, England, the son of John Watts, a ship's purser, and Susan Hurrell. In 1867, at age seventeen, Watts was elected member of the Architectural Association in London, England, where he trained at its school and in an architectural firm until early 1871. He subsequently worked as a draftsmen, surveyor, and evaluator in the city until 1873. Watts married Elizabeth Blanche Morris (b. April 21, 1847, in Guernsey, England) on July 16, 1872 and the following year immigrated to Canada, settling in Janeville (now part of Vanier), Ontario. Over the next several years, the couple had five daughters, Florence (b. 1873), Flora Mary (b. 1875), Ida Mary (1879-1946), Bellis Blanche (1881-1896), and Dora Hurrell (b. 1885); and three sons, Wilfred F. (b. 1878), Harold Hurrell (1882-1938), and Lawrence Homer (b. 1887). Florence, Flora, and Lawrence died in infancy.
Watts began working immediately upon arriving in Canada, producing illustrations for magazines such as Canadian Illustrated News, where he published, in the July 19, 1873 issue, an engraving of a post office designed by the architect Walter Chesterton (1845-1931). Soon afterwards, Watts was hired as a draftsman by Thomas Seaton Scott (1826-1895), who was chief architect for the Department of Public Works in Ottawa. As Watts's first project for the department, he prepared drawings for the interior fittings of the Library of Parliament, including the desks surrounding a statue of Queen Victoria. Other early works include the Gasometer at Rideau Hall and a 50-foot Civil Service Arch at Parliament Square in Ottawa to mark the arrival in Canada of the Marquis of Lorne (1845-1914), Canada's fourth Governor General, in 1878.
In 1880 Lorne established the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (RCA). In his opening remarks at the first official exhibition, Lorne recommended that artists submit a diploma work upon election to the RCA and that these works form the nucleus of a national collection administered by the Department of Public Works. Watts was elected associate member of the RCA in the design category in 1880 and promoted to full academician the following year, when he submitted his diploma work, a pen-and-ink drawing for a stairway. Watts regularly exhibited his designs for furniture, interiors, and buildings, as well as oil paintings, etchings, and watercolours with the RCA. He also exhibited with the Art Association of Montreal and the Ontario Society of Artists. His design skills were recognized in competitions sponsored by the American Architect and Building News (Boston) in 1881 and 1882, and he was awarded a prize of fifty dollars for The Deuce in the Fourth American Architect Competition. In 1882, in addition to his post as draftsman, Watts was appointed curator of the National Gallery, in charge of diploma submissions and the acquisitions budget, and began developing plans for a print room in the old Supreme Court building. Watts acquired more than 100 works of art as curator of the national collection until 1897, when a change in government led to his dismissal from the Department of the Public Works.
After leaving the public service, Watts started a new career as an architect in private practice, mainly designing churches. The design for St. Matthew's Anglican Church, a wooden structure which stood at 217 First Avenue in the Glebe neighbourhood of Ottawa (demolished in 1930) is believed to be one of Watts's first commissions, built in 1898. In 1901 he designed St. Augustine's Anglican Church at 100 Huxley Street in Galetta, Ontario (completed 1902), and in 1904 the Adath Jeshrun Synagogue at 375 King Edward Avenue in Ottawa (the Ottawa French Seventh-day Adventist Church since 1999). Also in 1904 Watts painted an altarpiece and designed the ceiling of the chancel for St. Margaret's Anglican Church, where he served as first people's warden. In 1909 he made alterations and designed a new Sunday school for Zion Presbyterian Church on Albert Street in Carleton Place, Ontario.
Watts also specialized in houses for wealthy residents of Ottawa, including the following: John Mather (1828-1907), a lumberman, at 453 Laurier Avenue East in 1878 (now Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa Culinary Arts Institute); John Frederick Booth, son of J.R. Booth (1827-1925), at 285 Charlotte Street (the Embassy of Russia since 1942); Andrew Walker Fleck (1848-1924), at 500 Wilbrod Street (now the Algerian Embassy); and William Davis, at 407 Wilbrod Street (now Australia House). Other notable designs by Watts include the Men Wah Tay lodge, a summer railway hotel at Rock Lake in Algonquin Park in 1900 (acquired by the Crown and dismantled in 1955), and the studio residence of the Canadian painter John Charles Pinhey (1860-1912) in Hudson Heights, Quebec, in 1903. Watts remained involved in the architectural community for most of his life. In 1906 he became the first president of the Ottawa chapter of the Ontario Association of Architects, and the following year he was appointed treasurer of the newly founded Architectural Institute of Canada. Watts exhibited with the Royal Canadian Academy for the last time in 1913. He died at his home at 62 Robert Street in Ottawa on August 26, 1917, and was buried in Beechwood Cemetery.
Fonds consists of personal photographs and documents related to Watts's association with the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Photographs include three portraits of Watts taken in Canada, one family portrait, and one Royal Canadian Academy of Arts photograph from 1897. There are negatives for two of the Watts portraits, the family photograph, as well as a negative showing portraits of Watts and his wife Elizabeth taken in England. Also included in the fonds is a notebook containing pictorial and print newspaper clipping related to the 1882 Royal Canadian Academy of Arts exhibition.
Source of supplied title proper: Title based on contents of fonds.
Immediate source of acquisition: The collection was acquired by the National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives from Crowther & Brayley Ltd, Waverley, Nova Scotia, 2009.
Terms governing use and reproductions: Permission to reproduce or publish material from the John William Hurrell Watts fonds must be obtained from the National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives.
Associated materials: The National Gallery of Canada owns six drawings by John William Hurrell Watts, including "Design for a Stairway," his diploma work submitted to the Royal Academy of the Arts in 1881.
Related groups of records: The National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives collection includes Watts's specifications book from the Department of Public Works, Chief Architect's office. The Homer Watson fonds includes correspondence between Watts and Homer Watson and two photographs of Watts. Two books in the Library collection, Memoirs of Benvenuto Cellini (London: Harry G. Bohn, 1850) and Clara Erskine Clement, Naples: The City of Parthenope and Environs (Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1894), were formerly owned by Watts and include his bookplate.
Finding aids: Series level descriptions and box list available.
Collection processed and finding aid prepared by Kira A. Brown in 2011.
[Title of item], John William Hurrell Watts fonds, National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives.
Head, Archives, Documentation and Visual Resources
Library and Archives
National Gallery of Canada
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P.O. Box 427, Station A
Detailed Description of the Collection