James Laurence Watts
James Laurence Watts was a sculptor in Queensland, Australia. He was one of the pioneer sculptors in Australia and his works appear in many Queensland public buildings and places. James Laurence Watts was born in the town of Bedminster, England to John and Betsey Watts. Bedminster being today a district of Bristol. James is the third eldest in a family of 4 sons; the family moved to Weston-super-Mare on the Somerset coast about 1855. Here John found work as a fisherman, it is not known what inspired James to be a sculptor but his elder brother is a mason and this may have been the inspiration. It is believed that James received his early art training at the South Kensington School of Arts, London during the period of 1870s, he married Mary Louisa Lloyd on 15 January 1880 at Pembroke, St Mary, Wales. On the 31st November 1884 he and his wife and family of one daughter and two sons arrive in Brisbane, Australia aboard the ship ‘Roma’. James Watts' family were listed as ` Bounty' passengers; the meaning of ‘Bounty ‘ is a form of assisted passage by the Queensland Government at that time to provide industry in Queensland with skilled labourers and tradesmen.
James accepts work on arrival with James Campbell and Sons, a large sawmilling and building materials merchant of Brisbane. James Campbell and Sons had purchased in 1883, Petrie's Quarry and Brickworks along with Fischer’ Pottery at Albion as part of the company's expansion. There was a market at the time for good quality pottery and James was employed as a clay modeller at the pottery. James continued to be employed at the pottery for most of his working life, his first known sculpture is in 1888 in the form of a bust of Sir Anthony Musgrave, an early Governor of Queensland who died in office. This sculpture was displayed at the head office of James Sons. Queensland Parliament House holds a collection of Watts’ work being a bronze' portal bust of Mr. Lewis Adolphus Bernays, the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Thomas Joseph Byrnes, Sir Hugh Nelson, Sir Thomas McIlwraith, all were one-time Premiers of Queensland when the state was a colony; the Queensland Art Gallery holds two items of Watts’ a Jardiniere c.1890 a product of the James Campbell and Sons pottery works and a Sketch model of the late David Bowman.
Other bust sculptures include Alderman R. Fraser, Mayor of Brisbane, James Campbell, being his employer being noted industrialist and politician along with Judge Edward Mansfield. All of these works involve sculpturing in plaster and in some cases bronzing, he is commissioned in 1918 by the Queensland Trades and Labour Council to sculpture a marble bust of Emma Miller, a seamstress and women's rights and labour activist. That bust is now held in the Emma Miller Room at the Queensland Council of Unions; the National Gallery of Australia holds a collection of 25 ceramic and earthenware items from James Campbell and Sons Albion and it thought that Watts was the originator of most of these items. James Watts most noted work was a bronzed sculpture of Boer War soldier on horseback titled ‘The Scout’ which dominates the Boer War Memorial in Anzac Square in Brisbane. An agreement was made in 1912 with the Boer War Memorial committee for Watts to supply the status in its finished state for £1760. Owing to the difficulties of casting in Australia, the plaster model was sent to Parlanti Bronze Foundries England, the statue reached Australia in 1917.
The ability to cast a sculpture of this size was acquired by previous commercial sculpture work for the International Exhibition held in Brisbane during 1897. This was in the form of life-sized equestrian statue of a knight in armour for the brand Champion's Vinegar, whilst the other item is a group of cooks who are disporting themselves over a giant tin of Coleman's mustard; the Albion Pottery was well known for architectural terracotta, incorporated into buildings of the time giving a sculptured look to the building. The South Brisbane Town Hall built in 1892 is one of the well-known buildings that still exist that employed this architecture; the exterior decoration used terracotta paneling, supplied by James Campbell & Sons of Albion. It is thought that Watts was the designer and modeller of this form of terracotta because during that period his name is associated with a number of commercial premises being constructed in Brisbane, he was mentioned as the modeller or architectural sculptor for the Queensland Trustees building, the Commercial Union Assurance Building, South British Insurance Company building in Queen Street and the decorative moulding on the front of the Burns, Philp and Co warehouse in Brisbane.
It is not entailed sculpturing stone. As well as a sculptor, James Watts was a noted landscape painter exhibiting at the Brisbane Art Society Exhibitions with many of his works being acquired by local residents. Many of his landscape paintings are of the Brisbane River around the district of Sherwood where he lived prior to moving to the suburb of Taringa; the John Oxley Library, which contains Queensland's most comprehensive record of documented history, has two items of Watts’, a landscape painting titled "Indooroopilly Bridge after the 1893 flood" and a framed plaster cast of Robert Dunne, Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane. The latter item was mass-produced after the death of Dunne and was recommended by the Catholic Church to its parishioners. Rare examples are a collector item. Watts was the instructor in modelling at the Central Technical College, Brisbane School of Arts as well as the Ipswich Technical College, he was one