Remembering an icon - Monument to Barrington Watson unveiled
A monument dedicated to the memory of Jamaica's master painter Barrington Watson and a permanent resting place for his remains was unveiled at Orange Park in the hills above Yallahs in St Thomas on Sunday, February 19, a little over a year after his passing.
The ceremony, which was the brainchild of Doreen Watson, the artist's widow, was attended by a large gathering of family members, including sibling brothers; his four children - three of whom are artists in their own right; numerous friends from overseas and across Jamaica, led by former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson; members of the artistic community; and residents from surrounding communities.
In moving and at times emotional tributes by brothers Leighton and Melvin, and son Basil, Barrington was remembered not only for his pioneering work as an artist, but also as teacher, sportsman, mentor, father, and friend.
Film-maker Lennie Little-White read a poem he wrote for the occasion, which added a lighthearted touch to the ceremony.
Orange Park, the site of the monument, was not only Watson's home for more than 40 years, but also housed the studio where he created most of his masterpieces. Located on the site of an old coffee estate, Orange Park was declared a national monument by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust in 1994.
In her message, read by Dr Janice Lindsay, principal director, Culture and Creative Industries Policy Division in the Ministry of Culture, Gender Entertainment and Sport, Minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange said that as early as 1994, Barrington Watson had made the decision to bequeath Orange Park to the people of Jamaica upon his death. She thanked his widow for opening up Orange Park to facilitate the memorial and commended her for her efforts to ensure that Orange Park remained open to the people of Jamaica.
The design for the monument was conceived by celebrated architect Herbert Bradford, a lifelong friend of Watson's whom the artist had, years before his death, asked to design a monument to house his remains.
Bradford, who is best known for his work in designing the Bank of Jamaica building in downtown Kingston and the Norman Manley Law School on the Mona campus of The University of the West Indies, among others, died last September at age 85 within days of breaking ground for the erection of the monument.
His daughter, Loraine Royes, who spoke at the ceremony, said design of the monument was Bradford's most personal and meaningful architectural project. It was left to the sibling team of architect Neil Richards and construction adviser Teddy Richards to develop the architectural details and to supervise the completion of the monument.
True to Barrington's known preference for the classical style, the monument is housed in the centre of a hexagonal gazebo consisting of an elegant timber-framed and sarked (wood panel) roof, covered with fibreglass shingles and a capped peak roof. This is supported by six Corinthian columns in the Greco-Roman classical tradition.
The actual monument is designed as a four-sided pyramid, rising upwards to a six-feet high pinnacle from a three-feet base. Architect Richards describes the lower surface as having a "trowel-on" textured finish in antique white, while the upper portion is finished in black with a chrome tip at the pinnacle to throw off a glint or gleam both at sunrise and at sunset. Below the pinnacle, there is a touch of colour in the form of a rosette predominantly purple in colour in acknowledgement of Barrington's proud Fortis spirit.
A plaque in the centre is inscribed:
Professor the Hon Basil Barrington Watson OJ, CD, January 9, 1931-January 26, 2016
Beloved husband, father, brother and friend, world-class master painter
The physical placement of the monument is believed to have been chosen by Watson before his passing.
Located at the western end of Orange Park, it commands panoramic views of two Jamaican landscapes, the Blue Mountains to the north and the St Thomas coastline to the south, both of which are known to have provided inspiration for Watson's landscape canvases.