This collection will be a key part of the Modern British & 20th Century Art sale on Wednesday 29 November 2023. It includes a wonderful selection of artworks, that encompasses the entire 20th century. Other items from the collection are to be sold in our Old Masters, Fine & Decorative and Decorative Arts sale this November, emphasising the eclecticism of his tastes. 

Roseberys are delighted to once again work with Ted Few, a London based fine art and antique dealer, following our 2021 sale ‘Ted Few: An Idiosyncratic Eye Collection’. His reminisces below about Reverand John Watson offers new collectors a guide to collecting with the heart and eye.


Lot 9: Harry Phelan Gibb, Floral still life with green apples, 1930


How did you meet?

I first met John Watson at the Olympia Winter Antiques Fair in 1994. I was wondering how to make my wares more appealing to the disappointing trickle of visitors when I became aware of a pensive, engaged man making a thorough examination of the stand before settling on a patinated plaster bust of a woman by Hamo Thornycroft which had come from the collection of Siegfried Sassoon at Heytesbury Manor. After a while we exchanged a few words and then he took his leave.

The next afternoon he returned, had another cursory look at the rest of the stand, and then began to ask me very informed questions about the bust. I couldn't make him out. Was he an academic? He certainly knew his stuff. A prospective purchaser? His attire gave nothing away. He seemed slightly unworldly - not remotely acquisitive. And then once again he thanked me and left.

When he returned the following day I thought he was frankly either mad or deadly serious, but as he handed me a cheque my curiosity was assuaged. Thus began a relationship which lasted a quarter of a century and grew in scope and interest.



Lot 14: Dorothy Johnstone, Portrait of a lady seated, 1957


What was he like as a collector?

He had, in that first interaction, demonstrated so many of his essential characteristics. He was quiet, thoughtful, thorough, curious, enthusiastic, prudent, unassuming and educated; a man of enormous integrity and kindness with a sense of humour to boot.  I learned that during his ministry he had bought pictures and sculpture from several of the top West End dealers but when he retired he was free to indulge his passion far more widely, buying initially from dealers, then additionally at auction and latterly extending his sphere of interest to global Works of Art, and even Modernism. He had an inbuilt radar which steered him towards the unusual, and a natural attraction for works of the finest quality, not to mention a nose for anything secondary or specious. And his passion for the New Sculpture Movement exemplified these preferences.

It is a privilege to have been invited to advise his family and a pleasure to be working with Roseberys once again, dispersing the unique collection of a much missed collector and friend via a favourite saleroom which espouses so many of his values.