Waterfront New York


Aldren A. Watson was a professional artist, author, book illustrator, printmaker, hand bookbinder and master woodworker whose career spanned more than 75 years. He grew up in Brooklyn, NY and Western Massachusetts, and lived in rural Vermont and New Hampshire from 1945 until his death in May, 2013 at the age of 95. He is perhaps best known for his extremely clear and crisply defined pencil illustrations that appear in books he authored himself, such as Country Furniture, The Village Blacksmith, and Hand Tools: Their Ways and Workings.

All of Watson's work in any medium exhibits the same focus and careful attention to detail that marked his career from the start. However, a reverence for books, their construction, purpose and history, as well as a respect for them as an art form led Watson to a lifelong interest in their craft. His books transcend their purpose as vehicles for the communication of knowledge, and in many ways became Watson's chosen medium for artistic expression.

A second generation artist, Aldren Watson grew up and defined his career during the final years of the golden age of American illustration, and was lucky enough to have as his father and mentor the editor emeritus and one of the founders of American Artist Magazine, Ernest W. Watson. As a result, Aldren was exposed at a young age to the talents of his own family (his mother was a professional artist as well), and also was submerged in the professional culture of the more than 200 working artists interviewed by his father, as well as the many other artists and writers of the day with whom his parents collaborated and socialized. By the time he began his formal education at the Art Student's League of New York in the 1930s he had already aquired a unique educational experience.

Born more than a decade before construction began on the Empire State Building, Aldren experienced Manhattan and rural Massachusetts as they no longer exist, with horse carts and sailing ships as well as automobiles and steam driven ocean liners carrying out the commerce of the day. A wood fired range furnished the kitchen in his family's country home, and as a young man working for the New York State Forestry Service, Aldren pulled one end of a two man crosscut saw to fell trees. A lifetime spent in rural New England raising children and animals, working with wood, gardening, repairing antique homes, building boats and living an independent and sometimes rugged lifestyle gave his life's work an authenticity and perspective rarely seen in contemporary art and writing.

Most recently, Aldren A. Watson completed a 144 page book titled Waterfront New York: Images of the 1920s and '30s, forthcoming in 2014. Illustrated with dozens of Watson's precise watercolor paintings that are based on photographs his father and he took during their walks together when Aldren was a boy, the book also contains Watson's written descriptions, memories and anecdotes, and thus represents not only a historic view of commerce in early 20th century New York, but also a personal memoir of his childhood during that time.