Muswellbrook bids Maxwell 'Max' Joseph Watters OAM farewell at St Alban's Anglican Church

THE tributes continue to flow in for the late Maxwell "Max" Joseph Watters OAM, who was farewelled in his hometown on Tuesday morning.

The two-time Muswellbrook Shire Citizen of the Year died on Saturday, February 1, aged 83.

And, family and friends of the well-respected artist, considered a cultural icon throughout the nation, had the opportunity to say their goodbyes at a private ceremony at St Alban's Anglican Church on February 11.

Incredibly, Mr Watters, the second of seven children born to Frank and Iris Watters, was self-taught.

However, his works are held in many private collections as well as the National Gallery of Australia and Art Gallery of NSW.

"Max did so much to support the arts in the Upper Hunter," said The Honourable John Jobling OAM MStJ (First Mayor of Muswellbrook 1974-1986).

"We will be a poorer area without his unbelievable support and gift to the community.

"I offer my sincerest condolences."

For more than five decades, Mr Watters provided art lessons locally, starting on Saturday mornings in Denman.

He taught at Strathearn Aged Care village in Scone, Calvary Muswellbrook Retirement Community, the Muswellbrook PCYC and Wybong Community Hall, among others, too.

"I pay my respects to Max for all he has done for our community, our state and indeed our nation," Scone Arts & Crafts secretary Roger Skinner said.

"Through his extremely generous benefaction, our town is incredibly lucky and to have had him remain in Muswellbrook and, most particularly, help out hundreds of other aspiring artists over the years leaves us forever in his debt.

"His collection is the most amazing thing to see, his depth of appreciation of art is as staggering as it is remarkable.

"Max's tireless efforts promoting art and offering endless encouragement, was a rich vein in his character."

In March 2004, Mr Watters signed over his art collection, valued at more than $5 million, to the Muswellbrook Shire - which appears in the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre - so locals and visitors alike could enjoy in perpetuity his vision.

"Locally, Max's legacy is twofold," said Brad Franks, who had a 30-year friendship with the artist.

"Firstly, the collection he donated to the gallery was an extraordinary gift, especially for regional Australia.

"It's a fabulously diverse range of artworks.

"Secondly, the way he supported local residents and artists across the Upper Hunter was second-to-none - whether they were in nursing homes, to keep them mentally entertained, or community halls.

"Max actually called them 'art groups', not 'classes'.

"He'll be remembered for his sense of humour - and known for putting a smile on their faces."

But, Muswellbrook Shire mayor Martin Rush summed it all up best, calling Mr Watters "a Muswellbrook treasure".

Indeed he was.