Dr James Watson

Oil on panel study, 10 x 8 inches, 2004

Sittings started for this portrait in Dr Watson’s home in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. By identifying the structure of DNA, the molecule of life, Francis Crick and James Watson (who was only 24 at the time) revolutionised biochemistry and won themselves a Nobel Prize.

Intimidated somewhat by Dr Watson’s reputation, and knowing that he had been voted ‘Man of the Millennium’ by Time Magazine, I was anxious to find some common ground for easy conversation during the course of the sittings. It came as an immense relief to me to find that Dr Watson had from his early student days taken a great interest in collecting fine drawings and small paintings by some of the great names in art of the 20th century.

There was much to talk about, and his enthusiasm for his collection meant that most of the sittings overran by some considerable time. Stimulated by good coffee and great conversation, the portrait was produced around his kitchen table, with him sitting at the head of the table.

During our occasional breaks, he would recommend taking a breath of fresh air and invite me to view with him some of the interesting sculptures dotted around the beautiful grounds of the laboratories. Inevitably, the double helix was a recurring theme.

James Watson side
A head study