Watercolour paintings are pieces of art that straddle the worlds of painting and drawing to create a unique art form. Watercolour paints are made of pigments suspended in a water-soluble medium and can be applied to anything from paper to canvas and from wood to fabrics. The uniqueness of the medium comes from its unforgiving nature; lines, colours and forms must be applied perfectly on the very first attempt – any further effort to paint over this initial layer renders the entire appearance muddied and effectively ruined. Watercolours have dominated Asian art and continue to do so today but have also enjoyed a prominent place in Western art history.…
Whether you’re a watercolour painting connoisseur looking to build upon your existing collection or you’re simply curious and taking a look into the world of watercolour paintings for the first time, we at Rise Art are here to help you buy art online. We have a wide variety of watercolour paintings in our catalogue and are here to guide you through the process of purchasing the piece that is perfect for you.
Watercolour paintings date back to the Palaeolithic ages when prehistoric humans would adorn their cave walls with paintings created out of mixtures of ochre, charcoal and other nature pigments in order to document the surrounding wildlife. Watercolours were also used in Egyptian art forms where they were painted on papyrus.
Traditional Chinese painting with watercolours developed in Asia in around 4000 BC primarily as a decorative medium and by the 1st century AD the art of religious mural painting had taken hold. By the 4th century landscape watercolour painting had established itself as in independent art form across Asia.
In Europe, watercolour painting emerged as an art form during the Renaissance period with advancements in papermaking making it more readily available. Albrecht Dürer developed new methods of working with watercolour paints, highlight its luminous transparent effects. However, for some time it remained largely isolated to preparatory sketches except for botanical and wildlife illustration schools where its striking effect lent a real-life appearance to these natural subjects. They proved popular also in map making and were deemed especially effective for rendering the topography of an area.
It was not until the 18th century that watercolour paintings really took off in Western art, flourishing especially in England where Paul Sandby used watercolours for his landscape scenes. It was at this time that watercolour painting become established as a serious and expressive art medium. J.M.W. Turner, a Romantic landscape artist, led the movement and experimented with available synthetic mineral pigments. Turner was inspired by the work of Thomas Girtin who pioneered the use of watercolour pigments for large-format, Romantic and picturesque landscapes – he explored both the expressive nature of the medium and its technical aspects. By the mid-1800s, the English art society had seen the establishment of the Society of Painters in Water Colours (1804) and the New Water Colour Society (1832). Impressionists were inspired by the unique effects of light and freer brushwork created by the English schools of watercolour painting and throughout the 19th and 20th centuries watercolours emerged as a medium used by many prominent artists, many of whom had previously preferred to work in oil paints.
In the 21st century, artists have taken advantage of this unique medium to create stunning pieces of art. Watercolour paints offer exceptional versatility and can be used to create rich, vivid tones, as well as soft and soothing forms.
Today watercolour paints are usually brushed onto damp paper or fabric surfaces which are favoured over the use of vellum which was preferred in older practices. The basic technique of watercolour painting is through the use of complementary washes and glazes in which the former lays down a solid area of colour, while the latter serves as a screen that allows the wash to shine through. Some painters opt for the use of the ‘wet in wet’ approach which entails the addition of paint or water to an area of work which has already been damped with these elements. Additionally, some artists make use of technique involving pouring colour on parts of the surface and then brushing or tilting this surface in order to allow these colours to freely mix together – a method credited to J.M.W. Turner. Conversely, the dry brush technique allows artists to pick up fresh paint with a slightly moist brush that they can then sue to create hatched strokes. Some artists choose to incorporate salt into their work, sprinkling it upon wet paint to achieve a dabbled, imperfect effect. Many watercolourists choose to stick to a minimal palette and focus their attention instead upon the play of different densities and tones in their compositions. However, this is not always the case and many artists subvert these norms, choosing instead to play with bright colour palettes to produce striking images.
See for example the work of self-taught Belgian painter Pol Ledent whose stunning watercolour pieces are splattered with huge pops of bright colour that create extremely bold and striking works sure to add a welcome injection of colour to any setting.
If you’re more interested in works that feature a traditional watercolour palette, look no further than the pieces executed by Satoshi Dáte whose use of traditional colours and hazy blends give a an almost dream-like feel to his landscapes and portraits.
Another artist whose landscapes are not to be missed is British Paul Hirst. Hirst’s distinctive style lends a certain energy to all of his landscapes, whether they follow traditional norms or subvert them to offer a more expressive, personalised encounter with the natural world. His unique colour palette of warm earthy tones contrasts against deep greys and blues to produce a hugely dramatic and emotional visual effect.