History of English watercolors, paintings by old masters
Watercolor is often called the most capricious and unpredictable technique. This is due to the many nuances of the behavior of water-based paints. An artist inexperienced in watercolor painting, even observing all the rules, may not get the result he expected. But at the same time, watercolor is a very grateful technique, as it allows to get the subtlest nuances of half-tones that are inaccessible to any other technique.
Watercolor came to Europe in the Renaissance. All lovers of old paintings known “Hare” by Albrecht Dürer. But only in the XVIII century, masters of English painting were the first to actively apply watercolor and developed the basic principles of this technique.
APPEARANCE OF AQUARELE IN ENGLAND.
When exactly the watercolor came to England – is unknown. Perhaps it was introduced by the great Dutchman Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641), who was the court painter of Jacob I and Charles I. His work aroused keen interest of English artists of that era, and the desire to adopt his techniques was completely natural.
For a long time, watercolor was used for strictly utilitarian purposes – by geologists, topographers, architects when designing castles, and even military intelligence officers. One of these topographers was Paul Sandby, considered the founder of the watercolor landscape genre.
Paul Sandby (1725-1809) was the first to think that the watercolor technique could be used to create large paintings. The artist traveled extensively in the UK and created many watercolor paintings depicting the most beautiful castles and estates of the country. Thanks to him, in England, there was a real fad, “the fashion for Britain.” Sandby’s watercolors were translated into engravings and printed in mass circulations, his plots were reproduced in the interiors of houses, estates, applied to porcelain.
Sandby brushes belong to the first paintings, which can be considered serious watercolor works. These are mostly landscapes written by him during trips around the country.
ROMANTICISM IN ENGLISH PAINTING
Before proceeding to the presentation of the further evolution of watercolor painting in England, it is necessary to say two words about the epoch that began in the art of Europe – about the beginning of the period of romanticism.
Absolutely dominant in European art for almost a century was classicism. At the end of the Georgian period, classicism with its adherence to canons began to become a burden on the path of the development of art, and the ideology of romanticism, with its desire for rebellion, the destruction of stereotypes, and the freedom of creativity, became more and more widespread.
The emergence of romanticism had quite material foundations. The second half of the XVIII century – the time of rapid development of industry, the involvement of large masses of the population in an active life, an unprecedented expansion of people’s horizons. The apotheosis was the events of the Great French Revolution of 1789, which shook the whole of Europe.
It is not by chance that in the epoch of the spread of romanticism, the true full-blooded history of watercolors and technology begins, which gave considerable freedom to visual means, freedom of expression, allowed to destroy old dogmas and create their own new rules.
FORMATION AND RISE OF ENGLISH WATER SCHOOLS.
One of the founders of the English watercolor school was Thomas Gurtin (1775-1802). Like many watercolorists, Gurtin mastered the technique, working on topographic and architectural drawings. However, he quickly moved away from the monochrome topographic style and was perhaps the first to use all the richness of watercolor in creating halftones. An interesting discovery of Gurtin was the use of grayish paper instead of white, which gave his paintings a special flavor.
Görtin also rejected the composite canons of topographical and architectural drawing. He could easily leave in the foreground of the picture an empty space, placing the main object of his interest from the side or in the distance. His compositional decisions became an important step in the process of transitioning watercolors to the rank of an independent type of visual art.
Gortin died of tuberculosis in his workshop, working on another picture. Best described the scale of the artist’s talent is his long-time friend, one of the greatest painters of the era, William Turner. “If Gurtin was alive, I would die of hunger,” he said.
Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) was a great master of watercolor, in many ways a pioneer and a true virtuoso of technology.