Queer Saint: The Cultured Life of Peter Watson

Peter Watson (1908-1956) was one of the most important cultural figures of the 1940’s and 1950’s. My biography of Watson, written in partnership with Jeremy Dronfield, was published by John Blake on April 2nd, 2015. This covers the full range of Watson’s activities, particularly in London and Paris. It gives details of his relationships with many of the leading artists of his day, as well as exploring his sophisticated personality.

front cover and notes, queer saint by adrian clark and jeremy dronfield

Watson supported Horizon as its financial backer and arts editor and helped to create the ICA, as well as encouraging artists such as Freud and Craxton with gifts and support of various types. He also supported poets such as David Gascoyne. He was a friend of many people in the art world at various different stages of his life: Oliver Messel, Cecil Beaton, Stephen Spender, Cyril Connolly, Brian Howard, Elizabeth Bowen, Roland Penrose, Sonia Orwell, Anna Kavan, Pavel Tchelitchev, Giacometti, Douglas Cooper, Graham Sutherland and so on.

Privately his life involved a series of male lovers, often Americans (Waldemar Hansen, Denham Fouts and Norman Fowler being examples). Although generally extremely popular amongst those who knew him, he was lampooned for his flirtatious habits in the famous privately printed novel by Lord Berners, “The Girls of Radclyffe Hall”, where his character was represented by “Lizzie”. (He also doesn’t come across too well in Michael Nelson’s “A Room in Chelsea Square”) .

Whilst he gets frequent mentions in surveys of the cultural scene, there has been no book about him. (I published an article on Peter Watson, and another notable art benefactor of the period, Colin Anderson, in the British Art Review Volume V, No 2 (Autumn 2004)).

If anyone reading this, or the book, would like to share any insights, please get in touch.

Queer Saint: The Cultured Life of Peter Watson – Contents

  • Preface
  • 1 – A Violent Quarrel
  • 2 – Between the Prince and the Frog
  • 3 – ‘Nothing is more awful than too much Reality’
  • 4 – The Freedom of the World
  • 5 – A Swoon of Romantic Love
  • 6 – Pining for Grandeur
  • 7 – Under Some Strange Influence
  • 8 – The Art of Living
  • 9 – Le Paradis Perdu
  • 10 – Dark Angel
  • 11 – A Heavenly Dwelling
  • 12 – A Time of Barbarism
  • 13 – Spoils of War
  • 14 – The War Effort
  • 15 – The World’s Collapse
  • 16 – Every Kind of Disaster
  • 17 – The New World
  • 18 – Two Americans in Paris
  • 19 – Thieves, Dope-Peddlers and Purveyors of Love
  • 20 – Euphoria and Dread
  • 21 – The Gardens of the West
  • 22 – Dangerous Pursuits
  • 23 – The realm of Ecstacy
  • Epilogue
  • Appendix – A Room in Chelsea Square