Man Swimming on His Back, 1985

Oil on Canvas

Betty Watson


Betty Watson’s significant contribution to Greensboro’s art community spans over the course of five decades, and leaves behind a rich collection of works. Before her art history studies at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, she took studio art classes at various art centers in the northeast. Watson studied lithography with the abstract-expressionist John Opper in 1954, and earned her MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1965.

Man Swimming On His Back demonstrates Watson’s use of submersion as a way to investigate how the figure fades through water and light. Her depictions of swimmers are perhaps the most well known of her paintings. The realist tradition tempered with mid-century abstraction is apparent throughout her work.

In 2006, Green Hill Center for North Carolina Art mounted a retrospective exhibition honoring Watson. The show represented her major series, including paintings, watercolors and drawings. These and other works have been widely exhibited through the years, including her Portrait of Randall Jarrell, 1963 at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.