London-born Dawson-Watson, the son of an illustrator, studied with America’s first impressionist, Mark Fisher and was already exhibiting at the Royal Academy as a teenager. In Paris he worked under John Singer Sargent’s teacher, Carolus-Duran, and others. Dawson-Watson was one of the first to discover Giverny. He told how the initial group of American painters (Breck, Metcalf, Wendel, Robinson and Bruce) noticed Giverny in passing, then convinced the innkeeper Baudy to add rooms to his hotel to accommodate them. Reportedly, John Leslie Breck invited Dawson-Watson to join them. He signed the Hôtel Baudy guest register on 12 May 1888 and spent five years there. Dawson-Watson had discovered Monet’s work in 1886 but he claimed that the group was unaware of Monet’s presence at Giverny.
In 1893, Dawson-Watson went to America where he spent four years directing the Hartford Art Society. The St. Botolph Club in Boston exhibited his works in 1894. After spending the years 1897 to 1900 in Canada, Dawson-Watson moved to Boston, then to St. Louis in 1904 but he did not exhibit at the Universal Exposition that year. He taught at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts (1904-15) and organized a summer school in Brandsville, Missouri. Dawson-Watson’s final years (1926-39) were spent in San Antonio, Texas.