Watercolors or watercolour has been around for ages. It remains to be one of the most popular medium. People of all ages have been using watercolour to create wonderful art works. It is common for children to have watercolors in their school bags.
For the French, watercolors are referred to as aquarelle. Aquarelle is a painting technique where the colors are transparent. It was quite popular during the 18th to 19 century in Europe. Most of those who paint using this technique were French and English landscape artists. It was 18th century when more and more artists were using watercolors for painting such as J.M.W. Turner and John Sell Cotman. They are both known in history as great artists, especially Cotman, who was created unique works of art.
But the use of paint did not start during this period. Human has been using paint and colored pigments to illustrate human life as early as the time of the primitive man. Egyptian tombs and temples are also decorated with these different designs using colored pigments and drawn on papyrus. Paint was also used to design Japanese handmade papers, calligraphy, and other visual art form.
European monks during the Middle Ages used tempera to create manuscripts which are also considered a form of art. One of the most famous illuminated book was the Limbourg brothers, Paul, Herman, and Jean book which was often referred to as “The Book of Hours.” It was more known as the calendar “Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry which was created in 1415. During the Renaissance period, more visual artists in Europe emerged and various art works have made major influences on the subsequent art forms.
The development of paper also had an impact on the emergence of the watercolour tradition. Paper started as a luxury item, which is why watercolour was also evolving slowly. China has been manufacturing paper earlier than their European counterparts. England has produced its first mills in 1495. It was only during the 18th century when Britain started making quality paper.
With the increase in the availability of paper, drawings and other creative ideas was explored. It was Albrecht Durer who was considered as the first watercolour artist during the 15th century. When the production of high quality paper surged in the last period of the 18th century, the watercolour tradition in Britain started. English J.M.W. Turner emerged during this period and was one of the best watercolour painters during this century.
In 1780s, a British company started manufacturing which are specially made for watercolour painting. Painters used to ground their color pigments, until the late 18th century when another Englishman named William Reeves started selling them as portable cakes.
It was towards the end of 18th century when the watercolours reached America. American painters were still working in the shadow of European known artists. gradually, new watercolour painters from the American showed their talent like Thomas Eakins and Winslow Homer. Considerable amount of painters were using watercolour as their medium which is why the American Society of Painters in Water Color was established in 1866.
Eventually, American watercolour artists started to break away from their European and British counterparts. Unlike the strict traditions followed in British schools, Americans do not have restrictions. Because of this, American watercolour painters were able to explore and more important watercolour painters gained recognition.
Nowadays, watercolors have become accessible for everyone. Everybody who is interested in expressing their artistry using watercolors could try. There are watercolour painting classes offered which could guide both adults and children in watercolour painting.