For some time now I’ve been championing the work of Dublin artist, Una Watters (1918 – 1965) whose reputation has, sadly, fallen into neglect. I’ve been working with Una’s family, in particular her niece, Sheila Smith, in order to change this. We’ve spent the last year-and-a-half trying to trace Una’s paintings with a view to mounting a retrospective exhibition and bring her work to a new public.
This task has been harder than you might expect because much of Una’s work has been held in private hands since the mid-1960s. Only two paintings of hers, that we know of, have come up for auction in recent times – one in 2007, and another in 2019. There’s a reason for this. After Una’s sudden death in 1965, aged 47, her heart-broken husband, Irish language novelist and poet Eoghan O’Tuarisc (Eugene Watters) gathered together 37 of her oil paintings for a memorial show. Afterwards, he distributed all of Una’s paintings among family and a wide circle of friends and acquaintances.
The catalogue of this 1966 show formed the basis of our searches, but because of the way the work was distributed, there was very little in the way of a paper trail. Given the time that has elapsed, many of the paintings have passed on to the next generation or the one after that in families, and people may not recognize Una’s work or know the story of how her paintings came into their possession. That said, everyone we came across, and there have been many, was very attached to their Una Watters and glad to share images of her work.
Due to their generosity, we have been able to launch today (April 28, 2020) – unawattersartist.wordpress.com – a new website dedicated to Una’s work. This site collates the fruit of our quest with a gallery of some of the work we’ve found along the way. Our plans to host another retrospective show of Una’s work – the first since 1966 – has been thwarted by the COVID-19 crisis but we’re hoping this site will be a virtual substitute for a show and will introduce Una’s work to the wider audience she deserves. We hope unawattersartist.wordpress.com may become a resource for those interested in Una’s work both as scholars and/or art enthusiasts.