Thursday, February 28, 2019

Historic Watercolors Available Online

Billingsgate Market
Before the advent of photography, artists used watercolor to document daily life, architecture, terrain, and archaeological discoveries.

Padstow Lifeboat
Apart from their artistic and technical merits, these watercolors offer valuable insights about how the world looked in centuries past.


Most of the millions of images are fragile and remain tucked away in archives, neither exhibited nor published. 



website called Watercolour World is undertaking to digitize these watercolors and to offer them for free to the public. The resource will assist climate researchers, costumers, school teachers, and historians.

Via the Guardian:
"Watercolour World is the brainchild of former diplomat Fred Hohler, whose first large-scale digitisation endeavour, the Public Catalogue Foundation, laid the groundwork for Art UK. The idea came to Hohler when he embarked on a tour of Britain’s public collections and realised quite how much there was to do on watercolour alone: Norwich Castle Museum held about 4,500 paintings by a single artist; the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, meanwhile, had somewhere between 200,000-300,000 watercolours in its drawers." 
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Guardian article "Our lost world in watercolours – the paintings that documented Earth"
Here’s the website itself
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Thanks, Jim at SketchTesting

8 comments:

Susan Krzywicki said...

This brought tears to my eyes - how amazing. I went to their website - it would be cool to be able to volunteer with them as soon as they are set up for remote work!

Thank you for sharing this.

Michaelangelo Reina said...

Do you have any techniques for mixing water color and graphite without smearing soft pencils with the water or scratching the paper with hard pencils?

Mel Gibsokarton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Marshall said...

Wonderful addition to my array of art web site collections! Thank you for linking us, James. I've already spent way too much time viewing and reading the background of just a few of the paintings. Their association with not only the places, but the history at the time of the painting, and the artist (some unknown) is fascinating.

Bill

Lou said...

So timely for me James. On a trip to Charleston a couple of weeks ago I ran across a book ("Civil War Sketchbook," Katz and Virga) at one of the preservation societies that documented the work of many artists who were essentially Civil War correspondents (such as W. Homer).
I had no idea such a thing existed. There were watercolors and pencil sketches from many, many artists employed by every major newspaper and magazine, Federal, Confederate, British, French and others. It's an incredible record. Sobering, sorrowful and brutally honest and so essential to understanding such a monumentally tragic period in America's history.
I've always thought that we were missing out on much recorded history by not having an appreciation of pre-photographic visual sources. Sometimes it seems that if a photo doesn't exist it didn't happen. Thank goodness this organization and many others are picking up the torch.

scottT said...

Wow, thanks for the head's up on that collection! I never thought of those sorts of watercolors as the early "camera" of the time, but it makes sense. I think dabbling in watercolor was considered a gentlemanly pursuit in England. I could spend a lot of time perusing these.

Penn Tomassetti said...

Thanks for linking to this resource! I have been looing all over the place on museum websites and just about everywhere for a large collection like this of watercolor paintings to examine in high resolution. This is both inspiring and a great place to study watercolor works online.

Stephen and Nyree said...

What a treasure trove. Thank you for sharing this.