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Watercolor painting

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An artist working on a watercolor using a round brush
Love's Messenger, an 1885 watercolor and tempera by Marie Spartali Stillman

Watercolor (American English) or watercolour (British English; see spelling differences), also aquarelle (French: [akwaʁɛl]; from Italian diminutive of Latin aqua 'water'),[1] is a painting method[2] in which the paints are made of pigments suspended in a water-based[3] solution. Watercolor refers to both the medium and the resulting artwork. Aquarelles painted with water-soluble colored ink instead of modern water colors are called aquarellum atramento (Latin for "aquarelle made with ink") by experts. However, this term has now tended to pass out of use.[4][5]

The conventional and most common support — material to which the paint is applied—for watercolor paintings is watercolor paper. Other supports or substrates include stone, ivory, silk, reed, papyrus, bark papers, plastics, vellum, leather, fabric, wood, and watercolor canvas (coated with a gesso that is specially formulated for use with watercolors). Watercolor paper is often made entirely or partially with cotton.[6][7] This gives the surface the appropriate texture and minimizes distortion when wet.[8] Watercolor papers are usually cold-pressed papers that provide better texture and appearance with a weight at least 300 gsm (140 lb). Under 300 gsm (140 lb) is commonly not recommended for anything but sketching.[9][10] Transparency is the main characteristic of watercolors.[11] Watercolors can also be made opaque by adding Chinese white. This is not a method to be used in "true watercolor" (traditional).[12]

Watercolor paint is an ancient form of painting, if not the most ancient form of art itself.[2] In East Asia, watercolor painting[13] with inks is referred to as brush painting or scroll painting. In Chinese, Korean and Japanese painting[14] it has been the dominant medium, often in monochrome black or browns, often using inkstick or other pigments. India, Ethiopia and other countries have long watercolor painting traditions as well.

Many Western artists, especially in the early 19th century, used watercolor primarily as a sketching tool in preparation for the "finished" work in oil or engraving.[15] Until the end of the eighteenth century, traditional watercolors were known as 'tinted drawings'.[16]



Watercolor art dates back to the cave paintings of paleolithic Europe[17] and has been used for manuscript illustration since at least Egyptian times, with particular prominence in the European Middle Ages.[18] However, its continuous history as an art medium begins with the Renaissance. The German Northern Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), who painted several fine botanical, wildlife, and landscape watercolors, is generally considered among the earliest examples of watercolor.[19] An important school of watercolor painting in Germany was led by Hans Bol (1534–1593) as part of the Dürer Renaissance.

A painting of a hare with large ears.
Albrecht Dürer, Young Hare, 1502, watercolor and body color, Albertina, Vienna

Despite this early start, watercolors were generally used by Baroque easel painters only for sketches, copies or cartoons (full-scale design drawings)[20] Notable early practitioners of watercolor painting were Van Dyck[21] (during his stay in England), Claude Lorrain, Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, and many Dutch and Flemish artists.[22] However, botanical illustration and wildlife illustration perhaps form the oldest and most important traditions in watercolor painting. Botanical illustrations became popular during the Renaissance, both as hand-tinted woodblock illustrations in books or broadsheets and as tinted ink drawings on vellum or paper. Botanical artists have traditionally been some of the most exacting and accomplished watercolor painters, and even today, watercolors—with their unique ability to summarize, clarify, and idealize in full color—are used to illustrate scientific and museum publications. Wildlife illustration reached its peak in the 19th century with artists such as John James Audubon, and today many naturalist field guides are still illustrated with watercolor paintings.

English school


Several factors contributed to the spread of watercolor painting during the 18th century, particularly in England.[23] Among the elite and aristocratic classes, watercolor painting was one of the incidental adornments of a good education; mapmakers, military officers, and engineers valued it for its usefulness in depicting properties, terrain,[24] fortifications, field geology, and for illustrating public works or commissioned projects. Watercolor artists were commonly taken on geological or archaeological expeditions, funded by the Society of Dilettanti (founded in 1733), to document discoveries in the Mediterranean, Asia, and the New World. These expeditions stimulated the demand for topographical painters, who churned out memento paintings of famous sites (and sights) along the Grand Tour to Italy that was undertaken by every fashionable young man of the time.[25]

In the late 18th century, the English cleric William Gilpin wrote a series of hugely popular books describing his picturesque journeys throughout rural England, and illustrated them with self-made sentimentalized monochrome watercolors of river valleys, ancient castles, and abandoned churches.[26] This example popularized watercolors as a form of personal tourist journal. The confluence of these cultural, engineering, scientific, tourist, and amateur interests culminated in the celebration and promotion of watercolor as a distinctly English "national art". William Blake published several books of hand-tinted engraved poetry, provided illustrations to Dante's Inferno, and he also experimented with large monotype works in watercolor.[27] Among the many other significant watercolorists of this period were Thomas Gainsborough,[28] John Robert Cozens, Francis Towne,[29] Michael Angelo Rooker, William Pars,[30] Thomas Hearne,[31] and John Warwick Smith.[32]

Thomas Girtin, Jedburgh Abbey from the River, 1798–99, watercolor on paper

From the late 18th century through the 19th century, the market for printed books and domestic art contributed substantially to the growth of the medium.[33] Watercolors were used as the basic document from which collectible landscape or tourist engravings were developed, and hand-painted watercolor originals or copies of famous paintings contributed to many upper class art portfolios. Satirical broadsides by Thomas Rowlandson, many published by Rudolph Ackermann, were also extremely popular.

The three English artists credited with establishing watercolor as an independent, mature painting medium are Paul Sandby (1730–1809), often called the "father of the English watercolor"; Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), who pioneered its use for large format, romantic or picturesque landscape painting; and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851),[34] who brought watercolor painting to the highest pitch of power and refinement,[35] and created hundreds of superb historical, topographical, architectural, and mythological watercolor paintings. His method of developing the watercolor painting in stages, starting with large, vague color areas established on wet paper, then refining the image through a sequence of washes and glazes,[36] permitted him to produce large numbers of paintings with "workshop efficiency"[37] and made him a multimillionaire, partly by sales from his personal art gallery, the first of its kind. Among the important and highly talented contemporaries of Turner and Girtin were John Varley, John Sell Cotman,[38] Anthony Copley Fielding, Samuel Palmer,[39] William Havell,[40] and Samuel Prout. The Swiss painter Abraham-Louis-Rodolphe Ducros was also widely known for his large format, romantic paintings in watercolor.

An unfinished watercolor by William Berryman, created between 1808 and 1816, using watercolor, ink, and pencil. The use of partial pigmentation draws attention to the central subject.
Remains of the Vicars' College, Exeter by George Townsend; 1885.

The confluence of amateur activity, publishing markets, middle class art collecting, and 19th-century technique led to the formation of English watercolor painting societies: the Society of Painters in Water Colours (1804, now known as the Royal Watercolour Society) and the New Water Colour Society (1832, now known as the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours). (A Scottish Society of Painters in Water Colour was founded in 1878, now known as the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour.)[41] These societies provided annual exhibitions and buyer referrals for many artists. They also engaged in petty status rivalries and aesthetic debates, particularly between advocates of traditional ("transparent") watercolor and the early adopters of the denser color possible with body color or gouache ("opaque" watercolor). The late Georgian and Victorian periods produced the zenith of the British watercolor, among the most impressive 19th-century works on paper,[42] due to artists Turner, Varley, Cotman,[43] David Cox, Peter de Wint[44] William Henry Hunt, John Frederick Lewis,[45] Myles Birket Foster,[46] Frederick Walker,[47] Thomas Collier, Arthur Melville and many others. In particular, the graceful, lapidary, and atmospheric watercolors ("genre paintings") by Richard Parkes Bonington[48] created an international fad for watercolor painting, especially in England and France in the 1820s. In the latter half of the 19th century, portrait painter Frederick Havill became a key player in the establishment of watercolour in England. Art critic Huntly Carter described Havill as a "founder of the water colour school."[49]

The popularity of watercolors stimulated many innovations, including heavier and more sized wove papers, and brushes (called "pencils") manufactured expressly for watercolor. Watercolor tutorials were first published in this period by Varley, Cox, and others, establishing the step-by-step painting instructions that still characterize the genre today; The Elements of Drawing, a watercolor tutorial by English art critic John Ruskin, has been out of print only once since it was first published in 1857. Commercial brands of watercolor were marketed and paints were packaged in metal tubes or as dry cakes that could be "rubbed out" (dissolved) in studio porcelain or used in portable metal paint boxes in the field. Breakthroughs in chemistry made many new pigments available, including synthetic ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, viridian, cobalt violet, cadmium yellow, aureolin (potassium cobaltinitrite), zinc white, and a wide range of carmine and madder lakes. These pigments, in turn, stimulated a greater use of color with all painting media, but in English watercolors, particularly by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Winslow Homer, The Blue Boat, 1892

United States

John Singer Sargent, White Ships. Brooklyn Museum

Watercolor painting also became popular in the United States during the 19th century; outstanding early practitioners included John James Audubon, as well as early Hudson River School painters such as William H. Bartlett and George Harvey. By mid-century, the influence of John Ruskin led to increasing interest in watercolors, particularly the use of a detailed "Ruskinian" style by such artists as John W. Hill Henry, William Trost Richards, Roderick Newman, and Fidelia Bridges. The American Society of Painters in Watercolor (now the American Watercolor Society) was founded in 1866. Late-19th-century American exponents of the medium included Thomas Moran, Thomas Eakins, John LaFarge, John Singer Sargent,[50] Childe Hassam, and, preeminently, Winslow Homer.


Stanisław Masłowski, Pejzaż jesienny z Rybiniszek (Autumn landscape of Rybiniszki), watercolor, 1902

Watercolor was less popular in Continental Europe. In the 18th century, gouache was an important medium for the Italian artists Marco Ricci and Francesco Zuccarelli, whose landscape paintings were widely collected.[51] Gouache was used by a number of artists in France as well. In the 19th century, the influence of the English school helped popularize "transparent" watercolor in France, and it became an important medium for Eugène Delacroix, François Marius Granet, Henri-Joseph Harpignies, and the satirist Honoré Daumier. Other European painters who worked frequently in watercolor were Adolph Menzel in Germany and Stanisław Masłowski in Poland.

Paul Cézanne, self-portrait

The adoption of brightly colored, petroleum-derived aniline dyes (and pigments compounded from them), which all fade rapidly on exposure to light, and the efforts to properly conserve the twenty thousand J. M. W. Turner paintings inherited by the British Museum in 1857, led to a negative reevaluation of the permanence of pigments in watercolor.[52] This caused a sharp decline in their status and market value. Nevertheless, isolated practitioners continued to prefer and develop the medium into the 20th century. Paul Signac created landscape and maritime watercolors, and Paul Cézanne developed a watercolor painting style consisting entirely of overlapping small glazes of pure color.

20th and 21st centuries


Among the many 20th-century artists who produced important works in watercolor were Wassily Kandinsky, Emil Nolde, Paul Klee, Egon Schiele, and Raoul Dufy. In America, the major exponents included Charles Burchfield, Edward Hopper, Georgia O'Keeffe, Charles Demuth, and John Marin (80% of his total work is watercolor). In this period, American watercolor painting often emulated European Impressionism and Post-Impressionism,[53] but significant individualism flourished in "regional"[54] styles of watercolor painting from the 1920s to 1940s. In particular, the "Cleveland School" or "Ohio School" of painters centered around the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the California Scene[55] painters were often associated with Hollywood animation studios or the Chouinard Art Institute (now California Institute of the Arts). The California painters exploited their state's varied geography, Mediterranean climate, and "automobility" to reinvigorate the outdoor or "plein air" tradition. The most influential among them were Phil Dike, Millard Sheets, Rex Brandt, Dong Kingman, and Milford Zornes. The California Water Color Society, founded in 1921 and later renamed the National Watercolor Society, sponsored important exhibitions of their work. The largest watercolor in the world at the moment (at 9 feet (3 m) tall and 16 ft (5 m) wide) is Building 6 Portrait: Interior.[56] Produced by American artist Barbara Prey on commission for MASS MoCA,[57] the work can be seen at MASS MoCA's Robert W. Wilson Building.[58]

Although the rise of abstract expressionism, and the trivializing influence of amateur painters and advertising- or workshop-influenced painting styles, led to a temporary decline in the popularity of watercolor painting after c. 1950,[59] watercolors continue to be utilized by artists like Martha Burchfield, Joseph Raffael, Andrew Wyeth, Philip Pearlstein,[60] Eric Fischl, Gerhard Richter, Anselm Kiefer, and Francesco Clemente. In Spain, Ceferí Olivé created an innovative style followed by his students, such as Rafael Alonso López-Montero and Francesc Torné Gavaldà. In Mexico, the major exponents are Ignacio Barrios, Edgardo Coghlan, Ángel Mauro, Vicente Mendiola, and Pastor Velázquez. In the Canary Islands, where this pictorial technique has many followers, there are stand-out artists such as Francisco Bonnín Guerín, José Comas Quesada, and Alberto Manrique.

Watercolor paint

A set of watercolors

Watercolor paint consists of four principal ingredients:[61] a pigment; gum arabic[62][63] as a binder to hold the pigment in suspension; additives like glycerin, ox gall,[64] honey, and preservatives to alter the viscosity, hiding, durability or color of the pigment and vehicle mixture; and, evaporating water, as a solvent used to thin or dilute the paint for application.

The more general term watermedia refers to any painting medium that uses water as a solvent and that can be applied with a brush, pen, or sprayer. This includes most inks, watercolors, temperas, caseins, gouaches, and modern acrylic paints.

The term "watercolor" refers to paints that use water-soluble, complex carbohydrates as a binder. Originally (in the 16th to 18th centuries), watercolor binders were sugars and/or hide glues, but since the 19th century, the preferred binder is natural gum arabic, with glycerin and/or honey as additives to improve plasticity and solubility of the binder, and with other chemicals added to improve product shelf life.

The term "bodycolor" refers to paint that is opaque rather than transparent. It usually refers to opaque watercolor, known as gouache.[65] Modern acrylic paints use an acrylic resin dispersion as a binder.

Commercial watercolors


Watercolor painters before the turn of the 18th century had to make paints themselves using pigments purchased from an apothecary or specialized "colorman", and mixing them with gum arabic or some other binder. The earliest commercial paints were small, resinous blocks that had to be wetted and laboriously "rubbed out" in water to obtain a usable color intensity. William Reeves started his business as a colorman around 1766. In 1781, he and his brother, Thomas Reeves, were awarded the Silver Palette of the Society of Arts, for the invention of the moist watercolor paint-cake, a time-saving convenience, introduced in the "golden age" of English watercolor painting. The "cake" was immediately soluble when touched by a wet brush.[66]

A Reeves box

Modern commercial watercolor paints are available in tubes, pans and liquids.[67] The majority of paints sold today are in collapsible small metal tubes in standard sizes and formulated to a consistency similar to toothpaste by being already mixed with a certain water component. For use, this paste has to be further diluted with water. Pan paints (actually small dried cakes or bars of paint in an open plastic container) are usually sold in two sizes, full pans and half pans.

Owing to modern industrial organic chemistry, the variety, saturation, and permanence of artists' colors available today has been vastly improved. Correct and non-toxic primary colors are now present through the introduction of hansa yellow, phthalo blue and quinacridone (PV 122). From such a set of three colors, in principle all others can be mixed, as in a classical technique no white is used. The modern development of pigments was not driven by artistic demand. The art materials industry is too small to exert any market leverage on global dye or pigment manufacture. With rare exceptions such as aureolin, all modern watercolor paints utilize pigments that have a wider industrial use. Paint manufacturers buy, by industrial standards very small, supplies of these pigments, mill them with the vehicle, solvent, and additives, and package them. The milling process with inorganic pigments, in more expensive brands, reduces the particle size to improve the color flow when the paint is applied with water.



In the partisan debates of the 19th-century English art world, gouache was emphatically contrasted to traditional watercolors and denigrated for its high hiding power or lack of "transparency"; "transparent" watercolors were exalted. The aversion to opaque paint had its origin in the fact that well into the 19th century lead white was used to increase the covering quality. That pigment tended to soon discolor into black under the influence of sulphurous air pollution, totally ruining the artwork.[68] The traditional claim that "transparent" watercolors gain "luminosity" because they function like a pane of stained glass laid on paper—the color intensified because the light passes through the pigment, reflects from the paper, and passes a second time through the pigment on its way to the viewer—is false. Watercolor paints typically do not form a cohesive paint layer, as do acrylic or oil paints, but simply scatter pigment particles randomly across the paper surface; the transparency is caused by the paper being visible between the particles.[69] Watercolors may appear more vivid than acrylics or oils because the pigments are laid down in a purer form, with few or no fillers (such as kaolin) obscuring the pigment colors. Typically, most or all of the gum binder will be absorbed by the paper, preventing the binder from changing the visibility of the pigment.[69] The gum being absorbed does not decrease but increase the adhesion of the pigment to the paper, as its particles will then penetrate the fibres more easily. In fact, an important function of the gum is to facilitate the "lifting" (removal) of color, should the artist want to create a lighter spot in a painted area.[69] Furthermore, the gum prevents flocculation of the pigment particles.[69]

See also



  1. ^ "aquarelle". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  2. ^ a b "Watercolor may be as old as art itself, going back to the Stone Age when early ancestors combined earth and charcoal with water to create the first wet-on-dry picture on a cave wall." London (2021, p. 19)
  3. ^ "Ancient Egyptians used water-soluble translucent paints to decorate papyrus scrolls. They used such earth pigments as ochres and siennas, as well as minerals like reds, cinnabar, blue azure, green malachite, and so on, with gum arabic and egg white. Technically, these water-soluble colors were watercolors." London (2021, p. 19)
  4. ^ Ling (1991)
  5. ^ Waterhouse (1994)
  6. ^ "100% cotton papers are more absorbent in most brands, but there are papers that have only 50% cotton or even high quality papers, which have no blending with cotton." Viscarra (2020, p. 21)
  7. ^ Vloothuis, Johannes (2017-07-14). "Understanding the Different Grades of Watercolor Paper". Artists Network. Retrieved 2018-10-03.
  8. ^ "Watercolor Paper: How to Choose the Right Paper for Use with Watercolors". art-is-fun.com. Art Is Fun. Archived from the original on 2015-10-07. Retrieved 2015-10-06.
  9. ^ "I would not recommend a weight less than 140lb (300 gsm) to paint anything other than quick sketches." Mann (2016)
  10. ^ "a paper that weighs 300 grams x meter² (140 pounds), has more body and looks more like a cardboard or thin cardboard, which makes it better to support the use of water." Viscarra (2020, p. 17)
  11. ^ "It consists of a mixture of pigments, binders such as gum arabic and humectants such as glycerin, which together with other components, allow the color pigment to join and form the paint paste, which we know as watercolor. With regard to the colors, the quality of the pigments and their degree of concentration, it is what determines how good the watercolor is and also its price. A paint that has a high concentration of pigment, professional type, allows us to use it with a large amount of water without losing the intensity of color." Viscarra (2020, p. 47)
  12. ^ "Turner himself was of the same opinion; he declared to me [Munro] that water-colour painting would be totally mined, and lose all its individuality and beauty by the bad practice of mingling opaque with transparent colour." Redgrave & Redgrave (1866)
  13. ^ "With the discovery of paper in China around 2000 years ago, the watercolor media took a different route in which the color of the paper played an important role." London (2021, p. 19)
  14. ^ "Watercolors on silk were frequently used by Chinese and Japanese artists. Their artworks often included calligraphy as well as peaceful nature scenes, animals, and pictures of everyday life." London (2021, p. 21)
  15. ^ "What Is Watercolor?". collectorsguide.com. The Collector's Guide.
  16. ^ "They had a limited range of colours that did not replicate those found in nature and the colours were never applied at their maximum intensity. Moorby et al. (2010, p. 43)
  17. ^ "In its simplest form, watercolour was used in Europe more than 10,000 years ago when cave-dwellers of the Upper Palaeolithic era mixed red earth with water and used it to paint pictures of hunters and their prey on the cave walls." Chaplin (2001, p. 6)
  18. ^ "Monks used watercolor and body color to brighten hand-written texts and manuscripts during the European Middle Ages. London (2021, p. 21)
  19. ^ "The origins of European watercolor, as we understand it now, may be traced back to the Northern Renaissance. Albrecht Durer (1471-1528), a German artist, was among the first to discover the possibilities of this medium. London (2021, p. 21)
  20. ^ During the Baroque era, watercolor was frequently used to decorate naturalist books, albums, and scientific publications, as well as to create hand-painted maps and building drawings. Watercolor portraiture on paper, vellum, and ivory was also quite popular. London (2021, p. 23)
  21. ^ Anthony Van Dyck (1599 - 1641), a Flemish artist, improved the watercolor painting method by incorporating transparent washes. This was a noteworthy advance in which painters allowed the color of the paper to show through pigments and play a major role in the artwork. London (2021, p. 23)
  22. ^ Watercolor was practiced by such masters as Claude Lorrain (1600 or 1604/5 - 1682), Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (1609 - 1664), and many more Dutch and Flemish baroque artists. London (2021, p. 24)
  23. ^ "Yet in the Christian era in Britain, it was not appreciated as an art medium in its own right until the 19th century, when Queen Victoria gave the royal seal of approval that brought it firmly into the purview of the art establishment." Chaplin (2001, p. 6)
  24. ^ "By the 18th century, watercolour was well established as a means of making a topographical view of the landscape." Chaplin (2001, p. 6)
  25. ^ "While families making the Grand Tour of Europe took along their art tutor, in effect to provide the holiday photographs, professional artists such as Alexander Cozens (1717–1786) and Francis Towne (1740–1816) travelled extensively in Italy. It became part of the English tradition that one went abroad to do watercolour paintings of exotic ruins – except that they were known as watercolour drawings, as the medium was not even dignified by the recognition that it was paint". Chaplin (2001, p. 6)
  26. ^ "Turner's apprentice years in the 1790s coincided with the fashion for all things 'Picturesque', an aesthetic taste propagated by William Gilpin (1724–1804), which embraced asymmetrical, broken forms and rough textures, and was epitomised by tumbledown cottages and the ruined abbey-churches laid waste in the Reformation." Moorby et al. (2010, p. 167)
  27. ^ "The artist who most truly brought the eighteenth-century tradition of figurative composition into the early years of the nineteenth century was William Blake." Reynolds (1998)
  28. ^ "Many more artists influenced the English watercolor style, including Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), William Pars (1742-1782), John Sell Cotman (1782-1842), and Samuel Prout (1783–1852)." London (2021, p. 24)
  29. ^ "professional artists such as Alexander Cozens (1717–1786) and Francis Towne (1740–1816) travelled extensively in Italy." Chaplin (2001, p. 6)
  30. ^ "His study of stonework from the gateway at Battle Abbey, for example, is a colour exercise derived from an earlier watercolour by the eighteenth-century topographical painter, Michael Angelo Rooker (1746– 1801). Using part of Rooker's composition as a starting point, Turner has perfected the process of building up a picture using one application of colour at a time, gradually moving through a scale of tonality from light to dark." Moorby et al. (2010, p. 18-19)
  31. ^ "Hearne's style is even more precise and unperturbed than Rooker's. He was born a year or two before Rooker, emerged into public notice about 1765, and after his foreign voyage settled down to a long life of drawing the places of interest in Great Britain, many for a well-known publication called Antiquities of Great Britain, to which he was still contributing as late as 1807." Reynolds (1998)
  32. ^ "John 'Warwick' Smith has long been supposed to owe his nickname to the circumstance of his patronage by Lord Warwick, though it may come from his birthplace near the village of Warwick in Cumberland. He was in Rome from 1777 to 1781 and again in 1783. He shows the marks of his travel by an interest in Italian methods of composing landscape and in an enhanced sense of colour (Fig. 23) Reynolds (1998)
  33. ^ "In 1799 the Napoleonic Wars broke out and Europe was closed to the British traveller." Chaplin (2001, p. 7)
  34. ^ "He was born in London on 23 April 1775, and given the names Joseph Mallord William Turner. His family called him William but he is now usually referred to by initials as J. M. W. Turner." Reynolds (2020, p. 19)
  35. ^ "Girtin and Turner in particular explored the capacity of watercolour for creating atmospheric effects, experimenting with texture and colour." Chaplin (2001, p. 8)
  36. ^ "The seemingly effortless freshness of these watercolours disguises the rigorous planning stage that lies behind them. For, between the pencil sketches and the finished watercolours, Turner evolved a creative process that enabled him to experiment in an open-ended fashion with the structure and relative dispositions of colour and light." Moorby et al. (2010, p. 26)
  37. ^ "One charming account recalls how Turner would hang up his moist studies on cords spread across his room, so that his drying sheets, stained with 'pink and blue and yellow', would at first glance resemble the laundry of a washerwoman." Moorby et al. (2010, p. 26)
  38. ^ "John Varley (1778–1842), Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), John Sell Cotman (1782–1842) and David Cox (1783–1859) ushered in the golden age of British watercolour". Chaplin (2001, p. 7)
  39. ^ "When it is remembered that men of such diverse gifts and temperaments as David Cox and Samuel Palmer, F.O. Finch and Copley Fielding were his [John Varley] pupils it will be apparent that he did not impose his own vision on his scholars but, as education truly signifies, drew out of them what was latent in them." Reynolds (1998)
  40. ^ "William Havell was, at the age of twenty-three, the youngest of the exhibiting members in 1805. His work typifies the common approach of the members of the Society: the dependence of composition on the seventeenth-century landscape painters, the aspiration to vie with oil paintings, the rich tonality of the piece." Reynolds (1998)
  41. ^ "By the nineteenth century, watercolor had become so popular that several art societies were formed, including the Society of Painters in Water Colours (1804, now the Royal Watercolour Society), the New Water Colour Society (1832, now the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours), and the Scottish Society of Painters in Water Colours (1878, now the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour). The Watercolour Society of Ireland (WCSI) was established in Ireland in 1870, and the Ulster Watercolour Society (UWS) was founded in Northern Ireland. The Russian Watercolor Society was formed in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1880." London (2021, p. 26)
  42. ^ Reynolds (1992, p. 102)
  43. ^ "J.S. Cotman was born in Norwich in 1782; and, having decided that he must devote himself to art, came to London at the age of sixteen or seventeen in 1798. Here he was befriended by Dr Monro, and became another instance of that connoisseur's remarkable flair in choosing promising young men. As were Turner and Girtin five years before, he was set to copy outlines and trace drawings." Reynolds (1998)
  44. ^ "The early nineteenth century Girtin, Turner, Cotman, Cox, De Wint, Constable, Bonington, and the Exhibiting Societies". Reynolds (1998)
  45. ^ "Lewis and Hunt were forerunners in an aesthetic shift which is apparent in the watercolours of the next thirty years, towards brilliance of colour and minuteness of touch." Reynolds (1998)
  46. ^ "Birket Foster applies these principles[brilliance of colour and minuteness of touch] to landscapes in which the emphasis is laid on the charm of summer fields and country lanes and the inhabitants are idealized into the best behaved children or worthy, handsome peasantry." Reynolds (1998)
  47. ^ "In the next generation of artists the acknowledged leader of the illustrative school was Frederick Walker." Reynolds (1998)
  48. ^ "Although he only lived to be twenty-five, Bonington crystallized the prevailing tendencies of his time so well that he not only left a body of great work behind him but he had a strong influence on his contemporaries and successors both in France and England." Reynolds (1998)
  49. ^ "Havill Frederick biography".
  50. ^ "Watercolor extended its reach to the American continent with European painters documenting the "new world", and became popular there in the nineteenth century. In 1866, the American Society of Painters in Watercolor (now the American Watercolor Society) was established. Artists such as James A. M. Whistler (1834-1903), Thomas Moran (1837-1926), Thomas Eakins (1844-1916), John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), and many more had contributed to the American tradition of watercolor by the end of the nineteenth century." London (2021, pp. 26–27)
  51. ^ Brown, David Blayney. "Watercolour." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved April 26, 2014.
  52. ^ Mann, Fiona (2011). Brushing the surface: the practice and critical reception of watercolour techniques in England 1850-1880 (PDF) (Doctor of Philosophy thesis). Oxford Brookes University. pp. 202–203. doi:10.24384/P9Z8-JM16. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2024-03-11. Retrieved 2024-03-10.
  53. ^ "The European forms of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism were frequently emulated in the United States." London (2021, p. 27)
  54. ^ "At about the same time, several of new regional schools sprung up." London (2021, p. 27)
  55. ^ "The Cleveland Museum of Art was the epicenter of the "Cleveland" or "Ohio School" of artists. In 1921, the California Water Color Society was established (now the National Watercolor Society)." London (2021, p. 27)
  56. ^ Nalewicki, Jennifer. "The Story Behind the World's Largest Watercolor Painting". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2018-07-01.
  57. ^ "The World's Largest Watercolor Goes on Display at MASS MoCA". Creators. 2017-05-30. Retrieved 2018-07-01.
  58. ^ "Barbara Ernst Prey Building 6 Portrait: Interior". MASS MoCA. Retrieved 2018-07-01.
  59. ^ "Watercolor art in the United States declined after the 1950s, giving place to abstract expressionism." London (2021, p. 27)
  60. ^ "However, artists such as Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), Philip Pearlstein (born 1924), Joseph Raffael (born 1933), and many others continued to create in this medium." London (2021, p. 27)
  61. ^ "It consists of a mixture of pigments, binders such as gum arabic and humectants such as glycerin, which together with other components, allow the color pigment to join and form the paint paste, which we know as watercolor." Viscarra (2020, p. 47)
  62. ^ "Turner's surviving watercolour palettes have been found to contain various gum mixtures that generally include arabic, tragacanth, cherry or sarcocolla, and traces of added sugar." Moorby et al. (2010, p. 38)
  63. ^ "Gum arabic tends to dry out in the paint and is quite brittle, so the other main ingredient is glycerine, which keeps the paint soluble." Chaplin (2001, p. 25)
  64. ^ "so ox gall is added as a wetting agent." Chaplin (2001, pp. 25–26)
  65. ^ Chilvers (2009)
  66. ^ "...more user-friendly soft watercolour blocks had been introduced by the artists' colourman Reeves." Moorby et al. (2010, p. 40)
  67. ^ "...in general it can be liquid, creamy in tubes, solid, in the form of pans, chalk pastels, waxes, markers, pencils, etc." Viscarra (2020, p. 47)
  68. ^ Kraaijpoel & Herenius (2007, p. 187)
  69. ^ a b c d Kraaijpoel & Herenius (2007, p. 183)

Works cited

  • Chaplin, Mike (2001). Painting Expressive Watercolours (Kindle ed.). London: Collins. ASIN B00KV2RLEA.
  • Chilvers, Ian (2009). The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists. USA: Oxford University Press.
  • Kraaijpoel, D.; Herenius, C. (2007). Het kunstschilderboek — handboek voor materialen en technieken (in Dutch). Cantecleer.
  • Ling, Roger (1991). Roman Painting. Cambridge University Press.
  • London, Vladimir (2021). The Book on Watercolor (Kindle ed.). ASIN B0B1VFHMC1.[self-published source?]
  • Mann, Eleanor (2016). The Watercolour Book: How to Paint Anything (Kindle ed.). ASIN B01AIOM0Z0.[self-published source?]
  • Moorby, Nicola; Chaplin, Mike; Warrell, Ian; Smibert, Tony, eds. (2010). How to Paint Like Turner (Kindle ed.). London: Tate. ASIN B00XULC1FI.
  • Redgrave, Richard; Redgrave, Samuel (1866). A Century of Painters of the English School.
  • Reynolds, Graham (1992). Watercolours, A Concise History. London: Thames and Hudson.
  • Reynolds, Graham (1998). English Watercolors: an introduction (Kindle ed.). New York: New Amsterdam. ASIN B00FF9PY98.
  • Reynolds, Graham (2020). Turner (Second, Kindle ed.). London: Thames and Hudson. ASIN B0BDRNNKVW.
  • Viscarra, Alejandra (2020). How to Paint in Watercolor from the Beginning (Kindle ed.). ASIN B0852QZCND.[self-published source?]
  • Waterhouse, Ellis Kirkham (1994). Painting in Britain, 1530 to 1790. Yale University Press.

Further reading



  • Andrew Wilton & Anne Lyles. The Great Age of British Watercolours (1750–1880). Prestel, 1993. ISBN 3-7913-1254-5
  • Anne Lyles & Robin Hamlyn. British watercolours from the Oppé Collection. Tate Gallery Publishing, 1997. ISBN 1-85437-240-8
  • Christopher Finch. American Watercolors. Abbeville Press, 1991. ASIN B000IBDWGK
  • Christopher Finch. Nineteenth-Century Watercolors. Abbeville Press, 1991. ISBN 1-55859-019-6
  • Christopher Finch. Twentieth-Century Watercolors. Abbeville Press, 1988. ISBN 0-89659-811-X
  • Eric Shanes. Turner: The Great Watercolours. Royal Academy of Arts, 2001. ISBN 0-8109-6634-4
  • Martin Hardie. Water-Colour Painting in Britain (3 volumes: I. The Eighteenth Century; II. The Romantic Period; III. The Victorian Period.). Batsford, 1966–1968. ISBN 1-131-84131-X
  • Michael Clarke. The Tempting Prospect: A Social History of English Watercolours. British Museum Publications, 1981. ASIN B000UCV0XO
  • Moore, Sean. Ultimate Visual Dictionary. Dorling Kindersley, 1994. ISBN 0-7513-1050-6

Tutorials and Technique

  • Rex Brandt. The Winning Ways of Watercolor: Basic Techniques and Methods of Transparent Watercolor in Twenty Lessons. Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1973. ISBN 0-442-21404-9
  • David Dewey. The Watercolor Book: Materials and Techniques for Today's Artist. Watson-Guptill, 1995. ISBN 0-8230-5641-4
  • Donna Seldin Janis. Sargent Abroad: Figures and Landscapes. Abbeville Press; 1st edition (October 1997). ISBN 978-0-7892-0384-7.
  • Charles LeClair. The Art of Watercolor (Revised and Expanded Edition). Watson-Guptill, 1999. ISBN 0-8230-0292-6
  • Royal Watercolour Society. The Watercolour Expert. Cassell Illustrated, 2004. ISBN 1-84403-149-7
  • John Ruskin. The Elements of Drawing [1857]. Watson-Guptill, 1991. ISBN 0-8230-1602-1 (Reprints from other publishers are also available.)
  • Pip Seymour. Watercolour Painting: A Handbook for Artists. Lee Press, 1997. ISBN 0-9524727-4-0
  • Stan Smith. Watercolor: The Complete Course. Reader's Digest, 1995. ISBN 0-89577-653-7
  • Curtis Tappenden. Foundation Course: Watercolour. Cassell Illustrated, 2003. ISBN 1-84403-082-2
  • Edgar A. Whitney. Complete Guide to Watercolor Painting. Watson-Guptill, 1974. [Dover Edition ISBN 0-486-41742-5]


  • Ian Sidaway. The Watercolor Artist's Paper Directory. North Light, 2000. ISBN 1-58180-034-7
  • Jacques Turner. Brushes: A Handbook for Artists and Artisans. Design Press, 1992. ISBN 0-8306-3975-6
  • Sylvie Turner. The Book of Fine Paper. Thames & Hudson, 1998. ISBN 0-500-01871-5
  • Michael Wilcox. The Wilcox Guide To The Best Watercolor Paints. School of Colour Publications, 2000. ISBN 978-0-9679628-0-1