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Two gentlemen celebrating a birthday (Frank Watters and Geoffrey Legge)
, 1974

by Bob Jenyns

painted wood, denim, wool, plastic, 12 candles

Geoffrey Legge (b. 1935) and Frank Watters (b. 1934) ran Watters Gallery in Darlinghurst, central Sydney, from 1964 to the end of 2018. Watters grew up in a working-class milieu in Muswellbrook and left school at 15 to work in the coal mines. Having developed an interest in art he moved south and served his apprenticeship in dealing under Barry Stern, then one of the leading gallery owners amongst the very few in Sydney. Legge, an Englishman, was born in Uganda and educated at Charterhouse before coming to Australia, where he studied economics at the University of Melbourne. In 1963 he and his wife Alex rented a house next door to Stern’s gallery and began to ‘hang around’ there. In due course Legge and Watters decided to open their own gallery in Liverpool Street, Surry Hills. Geoffrey Legge, deferring to Watters’s more practised eye for art, insisted that the business be named Watters. Alex Legge kept their accounts throughout the life of the Gallery. In 1969 they took premises in Riley Street, which became an intellectual and artistic hub attracting the likes of Patrick White, who bought many works for the benefit of artists and, ultimately, the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Writing in November 2018 as Legge’s and Watters’s gallery’s closure was imminent, John McDonald declared ‘Watters may not be “fashionable” any longer, but the list of major artists that have shown at the gallery is unmatched by any of their peers.’

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of Frank Watters OAM 2018
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 2018.140