A comprehensive and beautifully illustrated history of watercolor, printed on a special paper stock
As an artistic medium, watercolor is so widely practiced, and so widely beloved, that it can be startling to reflect on its humble origins. For hundreds of years, nevertheless, watercolor labored in the shadow of oil painting; it was dismissed as a mere tool for creating preparatory studies, or as a “feminine” pastime. But, from the Renaissance, there have been artists who recognized the unique potential of watercolor: its luminosity, its immediacy, its ability to create atmosphere—qualities that derive directly from the quick-drying, translucent nature of water-based pigments. In this landmark volume, Louvre curator Marie-Pierre Salé tells the story of how these pioneering practitioners unlocked the aesthetic power of watercolor and established it as a medium in its own right.
Salé’s incisive text takes us from medieval scriptoria to the studios of the early twentieth-century modernists, encompassing every type of work—from plein-air sketches to finished studio pieces—and a wide variety of artists. Here are Dürer’s exquisitely detailed animal studies, Turner’s atmospheric landscapes, Cézanne’s tireless explorations of the visible, Sargent’s light-dappled sketches, O’Keeffe’s trailblazing abstractions. Throughout Salé draws on the personal and professional writings of artists and critics, revealing the rich dialogues that have propelled the development of watercolor, as well as the social institutions that have supported it, such as the nineteenth-century watercolor societies. A valuable appendix, also based in primary sources, traces the technical development of the medium.
Watercolor: A History features more than three hundred full-color illustrations, specially printed on Munken paper to capture the vibrancy and texture of the original works. It is sure to be welcomed by artists, scholars, and art lovers alike.
About the Author
Marie-Pierre Salé is a specialist in nineteenth-century drawings, and has curated or contributed to the catalogs of numerous important exhibitions, including Drawing in the Open Air: Variations in Drawing from Nature in the First Half of the 19th Century (Musée du Louvre, 2017); Odilon Redon: The Prince of Dreams (Grand Palais, 2011); Mystery and Glitter: Pastels in the Musée d’Orsay (Musée d’Orsay, 2008–9); Watercolours: Studio and Open Air (Musée d’Orsay, 2008); Jongkind: 1819–1891 (Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, and Musée d’Orsay, 2004); and Towards a New Era: Kupka, Graphic Works 1894–1912 (Musée d’Orsay, 2002). Salé is chief curator of prints and drawings at the Musée du Louvre; previously she held the same position at the Musée d'Orsay. She has also taught the history of drawing techniques at the École du Louvre.
Watercolor: A History exquisitely captures the vibrancy of this astonishing, essential medium and the artists who’ve made it come alive.
The history of watercolor in the West as both an artistic medium and a genre has never before been explored with such depth and vibrancy. . . She brings expertise and zest to her explication of both the technical and aesthetic aspects of watercolor as its use evolved from medieval illustrations to nature studies, miniatures, landscapes, and abstract works. The more than 300 examples are gorgeously displayed in this large-scale volume in magnificent reproductions offering spectacular detail and enabling full appreciation of watercolor’s most remarkable quality, its translucency.