Friday, 25 March 2011

Tate Britain: Watercolour

Dorothy Webster Hawksley: The Nativity, 1924

This was a massive exhibition, almost too big to really enjoy in one go. The rooms were divided up into sections such as 'The Natural World', 'Travel and Typography', 'Inner Vision', 'Abstraction and Improvisation' and 'Watercolour and war'.

John Fullwood: Stones

The origins of watercolour can be found in cartography, miniature painting and manuscript illumination. The accuracy and precision attainable has made it an invaluable tool for disseminating knowledge of the natural world.

Andy Goldsworthy: Snowball drawing

One of the things that struck me most about this exhibition was the variety of marks achievable, from the precise and delicate, which was particularly evident when viewing the botanical illustrations and portrait miniatures, to the loose abstract mark making of the contemporary watercolourist.

Jenny Franklin: Scorched Earth, 2001

This image was created with large brushes saturated with colour dropped onto wet paper. I found the grainy appearance very pleasing to the eye, its something I have tried to achieve with 'granulating medium' - but had little success.

Edmund Dulac: The Entomologist's Dream, 1909

"By exploiting watercolour's potential to appear light and transparent or heavy and opaque, artists have been able to construct an enormous range of unsettling, dreamlike, surreal and hallucinatory images" - Watercolour Exhibition Catalogue.

I was extremely taken with this image. I had seen it before in a book and it looked kind of like the reproduction above, a little dark and washed out, with those blues, browns and greys that I would normally associate with an Arthur Rackham image. However, the original looks nothing like this, it is unbelievably rich, mostly prussian blue, with a huge depth of colour and luminous quality.

William Henry Hunt: Primroses and Bird's Nest

One last thing I noted was the flexibility in size, this medium suited both the sketchbook and the large, wall mounted pieces. Intimate and bold, transparent and opaque, this exhibition got me thinking I should spend more time with my half pans.

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