Forbes Watson (1879-1960) worked primarily in New York City and Washington, D.C. as an art critic, writer, lecturer, and consultant to the U. S. Treasury Department's Public Works of Art Project and Section of Painting and Sculpture (Section of Fine Arts).
Forbes Watson was born on November 27, 1879 in Boston, the son of stockbroker John Watson and his wife Mary. Watson grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, attending the Phillips Academy in Andover, and graduating from Harvard University in 1902. After a brief period of freelance writing, he was hired by The New York Evening Post as an art critic in 1911 and worked there until 1917. In 1910, he married Agnes, professionally known as painter Nan Watson.
During World War I, Watson served with an American volunteer ambulance unit with the French army, later working with the American Red Cross in Paris. After the war, he moved back to New York City and worked as art critic for The World, from the early 1920s until 1931 and as editor of The Arts magazine from 1923-1933. Watson also lectured at the Art Students League, and at various universities and arts organizations.
In 1933, Watson moved to Washington, D.C. to serve as technical director of the U. S. Treasury Department's short-lived Public Works of Art Project. In October 1934, Watson was employed as Chief Adviser to the Treasury Department's Section of Painting and Sculpture (later renamed the Section of Fine Arts) and later as Consultant to the Secretary's Office of the Treasury. During World War II, he organized various traveling exhibitions including "Art for Bonds" that promoted the sale of war bonds. Watson retired in 1946 and lived in Gaylordsville, Connecticut.
Watson was the author of numerous essays and reviews, and several books including American Painting Today and Winslow Homer, a biography of the noted American artist. With Edward Bruce, he produced a pictorial volume Art in Federal Buildings, Vol. I: Mural Designs. At his death he was working on his autobiography.
Forbes Watson died on May 31, 1960 in New Milford, Connecticut.