The dedication at the front of this book is “for all James’s painting friends”. This might seem an odd place to start a review, but it sums up both the book and the man, because these “painting friends” were, of course, James’s students. He didn’t have the master/pupil relationship in mind, he just went out with a group of like-minded people and everyone had a nice time painting in the field. The fact that they all then went home knowing considerably more than they did in the morning was quite by the way.
When James died, there was a general assumption that this book would appear at some point and there was considerable discussion within his family about the form it should take and who the publication should be entrusted to. It’s likely that this will be a one-off and it was important to get it right first time for those painting friends.
This is a book of pictures (150 of them) because you really don’t need to say much about a James Fletcher-Watson painting; they speak for themselves and Gill Fletcher-Watson says as much in her foreword. Anyone familiar with James’ work will find pictures, subjects or treatments which are utterly familiar and, indeed, just what they would expect and want to find. There are works from the whole of James’ long career, some of which we remember from the walls of Windrush House, some because they are places James revisited regularly and some from his annual exhibitions. We couldn’t all own an original, but this is as good as a season ticket and a fitting memorial to a man who had a good word to say to everyone.