Peter Watson and Horizon

On 1st February 2013 I gave a lecture at the Sotheby’s Institute in Bedford Square, under the auspices of the Burlington Magazine, about the art contributions to Horizon. This is a very brief synopsis. A transcript of my lecture is available on request.

Founded at the end of 1939, Horizon was funded by Watson. The initial editors were Cyril Connolly and Stephen Spender and Watson produced most of the art contributions. Over the 120 issues that were produced until Connolly got too bored to carry on editing the journal at the end of 1949, the art contributions covered a wide range of material. During the War, when foreign writers were impossible to access, Watson relied on English commentators, such as Herbert Read, Robin Ironside, Geoffrey Grigson and so on. He also included pictures by his young artist friends, such as Freud, Craxton, Colquhoun and Macbryde. Spread across the 10 years there appeared articles about Francis Bacon, Louis le Brocquy, Eduardo Paolozzi and so on, as well as articles by British artists, such as pieces by Ben Nicholson, Graham Sutherland and John Piper.

Once the War finished, more international writers became available, writing about many foreign artists, such as Wilfredo Lam, Matta, Lipchitz and Henri Laurens. Big names from the international art world contributed pieces: Clement Greenberg and Sidney Janis from America; Daniel Kahnweiler from Paris; Douglas Cooper from the South of France; and even the legendary Bernard Berenson from I Tatti.

From 1946 onwards Watson was heavily involved in the development of the ICA and he started to use his contacts to help various artists get exhibitions there. His involvement with the ICA gradually replaced his interest in Horizon.

Horizon stands as a substantive record of the extent of Watson’s connections across the international art world. The significance of these connections is slowly becoming apparent.