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Margaret Watkins(1884-1969): From Canada to New York to Glasgow and from Photographer to Recluse

Margaret Watkins Untitled (glass bowls & glasses), c.1928 6.25 x 8.5 inches vintage palladium print
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Margaret Watkins Untitled (glass bowls & glasses), c.1928 6.25 x 8.5 inches vintage palladium print

 

Margaret Watkins(1884-1969) was born in Hamilton, Ontario as “Meta Gladys” and transformed into a Margaret.  Often Margaret’s start out with the name but become Peggy, Marge, Greta or Maggie.  Margaret Watkins left Canada when she was 24, and worked at the Roycroft Craft Community in East Aurora, NY.  I was happy to find that connection, because I spent my 40th birthday at the Roycroft Inn.  She moved to New York City, studied photography with Clarence White, and then taught at White’s school, including photographers such as (another)Margaret Bourke White.  Watkins created still life settings of domestic objects in her Greenwich Village apartment and many of her photographs were featured in magazines and in advertising.

Margaret Watkins, photographed in 1920 by Alice Boughton. (Collection of Joseph Mulholland)
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Margaret Watkins, photographed in 1920 by Alice Boughton. (Collection of Joseph Mulholland)

Then Clarence White died, and he left photos to Watkins, but Mrs. White sued to get them back.  Margaret Watkins took a trip to Europe in 1928, and never came back.  She moved in with four maiden aunts in Glasgow, and took care of them.  I wonder about this transformation in her life, from adventurous young woman moving to another country, and operating her own photography studio, to a recluse in an old family house in Scotland.  One of her notes on a scrap of paper:

I miss the artistic crowd most desperately. Collectively they may have every failing under the sun, but, in spite of their sins (or because of them) they have a strange gleam of vision, something worth striving for, something a bit beyond the end of their small human noses.(In Pictures: The Hidden World of Margaret Watkins)

In 1968, Joseph Mulholland, a journalist, moved in across the street and he and Margaret because friends.  She handed him a box and told him not to open it until after her death, and when she died in 1969, Mulholland was amazed to discover photos from her studio, and magazines; he was amazed because she never mentioned her past life as a photographer.  He found her trunks still packed for a return trip to NY, and many more photos in her house, and has devoted 40 years to showing her work.I take heart in Joseph Mulholland’s championing of Margaret Watkins’ work.  It’s as if her life was embedded in film negatives, lost in a drawer for decades, and then discovered by a friend,  developed and brought back to life.

Posted by: TP Newswire Tags: Margaret Watkins, Margaret Watkins Canada, Margaret Watkins Images, Margaret Watkins Photography, Margaret Watkins Photos, National Gallery of Canada
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Posted by: TP Newswire Tags: Margaret Watkins, Margaret Watkins Canada, Margaret Watkins Images, Margaret Watkins Photography, Margaret Watkins Photos, National Gallery of Canada

 

Margaret Watkins: Domestic Symphonies

05 Oct 2012 – 06 Jan 2013

Prints, Drawings and Photographs Galleries

Margaret Watkins made a name for herself during the 1920s in the world of commercial photography with the staging of everyday objects, such as soap, gloves and a pack of cigarettes, making them attractive and desirable. This exhibition of some 90 photographs will be the first retrospective of this important Canadian Modernist photographer.

Organized by the National Gallery of Canada.

 

More Margarets at my Margaret Pinterest Board

Quote by Elbert Hubbard at the Roycroft Inn 

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