Watercolor is a distinguished medium that we love using here at Kids at Art. The blend of color and water creates a beautiful stroke that complements a painting of a sky, ocean, animal, or landscape.
But watercolors were not always boxed up in the palettes we use today! Watercolors were used in many different cultures, from Paleolithic cave drawings, to Egyptian times and then prominently in the European Renaissance.
The medium gained much of its popularity during this time. Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) is one of the first artists who used watercolor heavily in his craft, since the creation of synthetic pigments arose (before this it was difficult to obtain the pigments typically used in watercolor).
German artist Hans Bol (1534-1593) was inspired by the trend and the “Dürer Renaissance” and founded a school of watercolor painting in Germany. At this time, the medium was used commonly for illustrations of plants and wildlife, since it could produce a “real-life” effect. However, the most common use for watercolor was for preparatory sketches and map-making.
The English Watercolor Movement had a major influence on the popularity and use of watercolor paintings in the 18th century. Paul Sandby (1730–1809), an English painter who had a previous career in map-making, took his map-making technique and applied it to landscape paintings.
J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851), a leader of the English Watercolor Movement, was a Romantic landscape artist who experimented with synthetic mineral pigments in creating expressive nature and technical paintings. Turner, who was inspired by Romantic, large scale landscapist Thomas Girtin, developed unique lighting and brushwork techniques that were different, freer, and regarded as highly influential in the 19th and 20th centuries, as watercolor finally became regarded as an expressive and artistic medium.
Now, artists (including us!) have taken advantage of this unique medium to create striking works of art. Watercolor painting is versatile, and can offer rich, vivid tones, or contrasting soft and soothing forms. We appreciate its unique contribution to the art world!