Saturday, May 15, 2010

Watercolour in Britain

Watercolour in Britain is a new exhibition which has begun its tour of the UK in 2010-2011 and which I'm very keen to see - but it looks like I'm going to have to wait until next year unless I'm prepared to travel.  The good thing is that it is travelling exhibition and it's opening up the possibilities of watercolour to far more of the population in the north of the UK than is usual with such exhibitions.
...this thought-provoking yet accessible survey of the art of watercolour in Britain will provide a visual feast. From the glories of Britain's 'golden age of watercolour' in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to the latest contemporary practice, the book will include works by artists as various as JMW Turner, William Blake, the Pre-Raphaelites, John Piper and Henry Moore.

Themed sections examine watercolour's place in the British 'national tradition'; its use to portray travels; the versatility of the medium; and watercolour as a means of visionary expression. As well as including major works by familiar artists, the book also highlights the important role of amateurs and the place of women artists in the British tradition of watercolour, different and diverse global traditions of the use of the medium and the reasons for its enduring appeal to the present day.
Description from catalogue
See if you can catch it at one of the following venues:
  • Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery (now closed) Watercolour in Britain: Travelling With Colour
  • Millennium Gallery, Sheffield (June 17 – September 5 2010) focuses on Watercolour in Britain Tradition & Beyond
Watercolour paintings have become shorthand for a comforting, conservative world view, rooted in the English countryside, championed by Prince Charles, and largely rejected by the contemporary art scene.

It wasn’t always so. Watercolour in Britain illustrates the remarkable diversity of a truly British art form and show that watercolour has been used by many different cultures over the centuries, each with their own ideas about art, expression and technique. Featuring rarely seen paintings by artists including JMW Turner, William Blake and Edward Burra, this exhibition looks at watercolour’s iconic status in our cultural heritage before asking ‘where next?’ From sculptors such as Henry Moore and Anish Kapoor, to Surrealists like Paul Nash and Graham Sutherland, Watercolour in Britain showcases those artists who have pushed the boundaries of its potential.   
Description of exhibition in Sheffield
The exhibition focuses on different aspects of watercolour painting in Britain at each venue.

If you can't get to the exhibition you might be interested in the 60 page book Watercolour in Britain by Martin Myrone and poublished by Tate Publishing.  This is the catalogue associated with the exhibition.  Martin Myrone is Curator of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century British Art at Tate Britain.

The exhibition is organised by The Great British Art Debate which is a partnership project between TATE Britain, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service, Museums Sheffield and InIVA.

The Great British Art Debate is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, and by Renaissance - museums for changing lives.

Links:  This book is now included in The Best Books about Watercolour Painting


Mike Wrennall said...

Further to my comments on Watercolour in Britain and experiences at the 7th Festival Inernational de L'Aquarelle, while I appreciate the exhibition of watercolours touring the UK (but not Scotland??), could I ask why there are so few watercolours in galleries. In April thre was an 'Affordable Art' event in Glasgow where there were many galleries offering hundreds of paintings for sale. There were very few true watercolours available, (probably half a dozen). Why, when there are so many people out there using the medium and there must be many artists producing high quality work?
Mike Wrennall

Making A Mark said...

To my mind - one of the reasons is because the national watercolour societies have embraced all paints which disperse with water.

That means that visiting an exhibition can mean seeing relatively few of paintings in 'pure watercolour' in the sense that most of us understand.

Personally I'd like to see all the painters in acrylics go off anf form form their own society so that the very old societies can return to focus on a media which has been much celebrated in the past.

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