John Dawson Watson was born in Sedbergh, Yorkshire, studied at the Manchester School of Art in 1847 and the Royal Academy Schools in 1851 when he first exhibited a picture at the Manchester Royal Institution. He was a very successful illustrator in his early life. While working as an illustrator, he also produced many paintings. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1853 to 1890. He painted mainly genre pieces, but occasionally portraits and landscapes. He was well known as an engraver and book illustrator, particularly for his woodcuts illustrating Robinson Crusoe and Pilgrim's Progress. In the latter part of his life, he lived mostly at Conwy where he died. Betws-y-Coed is in Conwy in North Wales, on the edge of Snowdonia National Park.