Sotheby’s expert on watercolors, Henry Wemyss, died recently. The Telegraph gives an account of his career, especially his role in selling 90% of the Turner watercolors and Constable drawings at auction. It also sketches the close world of British watercolors:
He read Art History at Manchester University, and in 1979 joined Sotheby’s watercolour department on the recommendation of his Manchester tutor, Professor Dodwell. James Miller, head of watercolours at Sotheby’s, offered him the job over a convivial lunch at the Garrick Club.
Wemyss was mentored by Jack Naimaster, the elder statesman of the watercolour trade, by then a consultant to Sotheby’s and who later left Wemyss his books in his will. It was from Naimaster that Wemyss learnt to look: the full examination and enjoyment of the drawing in which the valuation was the final act of inspection. To clients he was unhurried, patient and so courteous that they thought they owned a masterpiece whether or not the drawing was suitable for sale.
The world of British watercolours is a small and intimate one, and Wemyss formed close friendships with the scholars, collectors and dealers, all of whom recognised his dedication and expertise.
Henry Wemyss (Telegraph)