Sculptor. Born in Carlisle. On the advice of John Flaxman, Watson entered the Royal Academy Schools, and while attending classes there became a pupil in the studio of the sculptor R. Sievier. His education and apprenticeship were to be extremely protracted. He spent three years in Italy. On his return in 1828, he visited Carlisle, but was soon back in London, where he took a studio near the British Museum. During the ensuing decade he worked mainly for other sculptors, Chantrey, Behnes and Baily. By 1842 he had attained a degree of independence and was commissioned to execute a frieze for Moxhay’s Hall of Commerce in Threadneedle Street. This frieze survived the demolition of the building, and can still be seen at Napier Terrace, Islington. Watson sent in two models for the competition for the pediment of William Tite’s Royal Exchange in the same year, but failed to win the competition. He was recompensed with a commission for a statue of Queen Elizabeth I for the interior of the Exchange. After completing a statue of John Flaxman for University College, London, Watson modelled and partially carved a double portrait statue of Lords Eldon and Stowell for University College, Oxford. This work was incomplete at the time of his death. He was also selected by Sir Robert Peel to model the relief of The Battle of St Vincent for Nelson’s column. This was to be another commission which Watson did not live to complete. Works like the much-admired relief of the Death of Sarpedon, shown at the Royal Academy in 1844, inspired great hopes for Watson’s future. When he died at the age of 43, it was claimed that his chances of success had been prejudiced by his unconventional lifestyle, and that British sculpture had lost one of its brightest stars.
Sources: Lonsdale, H., The Life and Works of Musgrave Lewthwaite Watson, Sculptor, London, 1866; Roscoe, I., et al, A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain 1660–1851, New Haven and London, 2009.
Philip Ward-Jackson 2011