800 years of watercolor

Imagine a typical watercolor painting at an art show.  Do you think of soft colors, a landscape, or maybe flowers? Looking back through the ages, it’s interesting to find that the history of this art medium includes use in illuminated manuscripts, drawings for recording information and map making.

Rachel Pedder-SmithRachel Pedder-Smith, Bean Painting:   Specimens from the Leguminosae family

The Tate Museum in Britain has been running an exhibition since February, which will continue on through August 2011.  Their premise behind this exhibition is to challenge your preconceptions of watercolour. (“colour” being the British spelling)

Dante Gabriel RossettiDante Gabriel Rossetti, The Tune of the Seven Towers

(Rossetti uses)” lots of lots of gum and varnish, trying to deny watercolor’s transparent qualities by making it thick and heavy, giving it the appearance of something painted on wood.” – curator Alison Smith

Wenceslaus HollarWenceslaus Hollar, View from Peterborough Tower, Tangier Castle

 Hollars earned his living by working for various authors and publishers, creating etchings and prints. Later in his life he was sent by the king to draw the forts and towns of Tangiers. Though his works were well-regarded, he died in poverty.

Queen Victoria's watercolorsQueen Victoria’s watercolour set, on preview at the Tate Museum Exhibition, “Watercolour”

Queen Victoria was quite a prolific painter, and enjoyed collecting and supporting art as well as creating it.  In the 1800’s, women were taught the art of watercolour for the purpose of creating decorative and domestic arts. Maybe I’ll put that on my list of things to do.

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