Watercolour has long been seen as a distinctive part of the British cultural heritage, with British artists widely ackwledged to be among its greatest exponents. At the same time it is a universal and much-loved medium, valued and practiced by devoted amateurs around the world as much as by professional artists. What can watercolour achieve in terms of technique and expression that other medium can, and why is it so central to Britain's idea of itself? While most books on the subject focus on watercolour as an immediate response to nature, associated with Romanticism and Impressionism, this book traces its roots from the Middle Ages through to the present day. Featuring classic works by artists including Turner, Girtin and Samuel Palmer, it also features watercolours by modern and contemporary artists including Anish Kapoor and Terry Frost. Separate sections look at watercolour in cartography and scientific illustration; the way its portability allowed it to capture the impressions of travellers; its arrival as a subject of exhibitions; its facility as a medium of the interior vision of artists including William Blake, Richard Dadd, the Pre-Raphaelites and the Surrealists; and, its adoption as the chosen medium of war artists. Edited by a leading expert in British art, with contributions from many other ackwledged authorities, this visually stunning book casts new light on an outstanding artistic tradition.
Alison Smith is curator and head of British art to 1900 at Tate Britain.