Born in San Francisco, Watrous moved East to New York as a young child. He gained his formal, classical artistic training in Paris at the Académie Julian from 1881 to 1882. In Paris, he was influenced by the works of Jean-Léon Gérome and William Adolfe Bouguereau and created paintings of exceptionally fine detail with a very high finish. He returned to New York City and became very active in the arts community, where he joined many clubs and exhibited widely. From 1905 to 1918 he painted many of his stylized figural works, depicting elegantly clad women in very decorative interiors. The Broken Vase is a classic example of Watrous' work from this period. The artist's delicate handling of the beautiful woman's black chiffon dress, is dramatic against the pastel pattern of floral and parrot shapes behind her. This elegant figure sits at a table delicately fitting a broken piece back into a Chinese Jardinière.