Max Watters, who turns 80 this year, had his first solo exhibition in 1966, 50 years ago.

House in bush near Muswellbrook c1967 oil on board44 x 64.5cm $ 3,000

His earliest paintings were in various figurative genres but by 1966 his direction was sealed.  The subject of his paintings was to be the houses and the sheds – often derelict and uninhabited – of the early settlers in the Hunter region.  His paintings of early houses emanate a tangible feeling of the courage and independence of the people who first cleared the land.  The ‘humble’ dwellings overshadowed by the implacable mountains and threatened by the encroaching bush are expressive of the steadfastness of the people who inhabited them.
Max Watters’ undeviating commitment to his paintings and to solving the challenges they bring betrays a stubbornness that reflects that of the early settlers. 

Max Watters has a passion for collecting art, which was when he could afford it, as great as his passion for painting.  Over the years he built up a collection considered to be the best private collection in Australia outside a city.   The collection is so extraordinary that it deserves to be discussed at length, but the point to be made here is the remarkable fact that his collecting and painting are, for him, two completely unconnected obsessions.  Developments within his paintings are not influenced by and owe nothing to his great and wide-ranging collection.  This solitary personal endeavour was partly the result of the cultural paucity of Muswellbrook, (which didn’t boast a regional gallery until the gift of his collection made one imperative) but mostly the result of a clear understanding of what he wished to achieve and an unswerving belief that the resources to achieve that end were to be found within himself.

Over time Max Watters’ paintings have incorporated increasing mastery of composition, colour and texture. None of these developments are immediately obvious, they result from a greater competence in the act of painting and a much more developed command of the compositional elements: shape, colour, texture etc. He is not trying to do a likeness of what is out there but trying to achieve a statement in paint that satisfies as much as possible all his aspirations.

His paintings, because many of the buildings have now been demolished and because of his 50 years of involvement, have become valuable historic and social data.  But this is an unintended attribute.  We must consider each painting independently as a unique endeavour, special to itself, and not as a part of a project.

Geoffrey Legge, March  2016

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