of The New Jersey Watercolor Society
early 1938, it was Mary S. Lawrence who first sent out letters
to artists whom she hoped might be interested in organizing
a society of watercolor artists. The first organizational
meeting was held at the Montclair Museum on April 5, 1938.
The group was formed by professional artists who hoped to
change things because they felt that watercolor did not get
the attention it deserved and there were no exhibitions held
exclusively for watercolor painting in New Jersey at that
A Member Show was arranged for the fall of 1938 and the
First Annual Open Exhibition was held at the Centre of The
Arts in East Orange in February, 1939. World War II soon intervened
and the actively growing group went into hibernation for the
duration. The 50th Anniversary of New Jersey Water Color Society
was celebrated in 1988 with a traveling show held at the site
of its first organizational meeting, the Montclair Museum,
as well s the Monmouth Museum and the Noyes Museum. This year
the Society commemorates its 60th Anniversary with the publishing
of Portraits/2 which features brief biographies and examples
of the art of each elected member.
is one of the few remaining art organizations to jury and
judge show entries from the original work. The society
holds an annual Dinner Meeting each spring for all members
and associates and provides workshops and demos which are
open to the public during the year.
History of Watercolor
Watercolor also spelled
WATERCOLOUR, pigment ground in gum, usually gum arabic, and
applied with brush and water to a painting surface, usually
paper; the term also denotes a work of art executed in this
medium. The pigment is ordinarily transparent but can be made
opaque by mixing with a whiting and in this form is known
as body colour, or gouache; it can also be mixed with casein,
a phosphoprotein of milk.
Watercolor compares in
range and variety with any other painting method. Transparent
watercolor allows for a freshness and luminosity in its washes
and for a deft calligraphic brushwork that makes it a most
alluring medium. There is one basic difference between transparent
watercolour and all other heavy painting mediums--its transparency.
The oil painter can paint one opaque colour over another until
he has achieved his desired result. The whites are created
with opaque white. The watercolourist's approach is the opposite.
In essence, instead of building up he leaves out. The white
paper creates the whites. The darkest accents may be placed
on the paper with the pigment as it comes out of the tube
or with very little water mixed with it. Otherwise the colours
are diluted with water. The more water in the wash, the more
the paper affects the colours; for example, vermilion, a warm
red, will gradually turn into a cool pink as it is thinned
with more water.
The dry-brush technique--the
use of the brush containing pigment but little water, dragged
over the rough surface of the paper--creates various granular
effects similar to those of crayon drawing. Whole compositions
can be made in this way. This technique also may be used over
dull washes to enliven them.
Excerpted from the Encyclopedia
The History of Watercolor
to the international watercolor tradition is second to none.
Although the British dominated that tradition in the past,
American artists have produced a substantial and varied body
of work in watercolor that is unmatched elsewhere in the world
since the late eighteenth century.
An unpredictable medium,
the character of watercolor is uniquely challenging. The accomplished
watercolorist learns to take advantage of the unexpected results
of the medium. As practiced by most of its greatest masters,
spontaneity is everything. The artist learns to improvise,
which can be done effectively only with experience. The intimacy
of the medium springs from the way it encourages improvisation
and seems to record the artist's fleeting thought on paper.
Watercolor, also known
in French as aquarelle, is generally described as painting
with water-soluble pigments on paper. Most commonly the pigments
are suspended in a vehicle or binder of gum arabic. The classic
painting technique was perfected in England during the eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries. The pigment was applied in a series
of transparent washes that allowed light to be reflected from
the surface of the paper through layers of color. This technique
gives watercolor its unique glow. Washes are layered to increase
density and transform color already laid down. With this method,
the colors are mixed by the viewer's eye and create a unique
On the other hand, gouache,
or body color, is another form of watercolor. The pigments
are mixed with zinc white and are opaque when applied to a
surface. Alternatively, tempera involves combining the color
with casein , a milk derivative, or with egg yolk as its binder.
Another form of water-soluble pigment is the synthetic-polymer
paint, widely known as acrylic. Even though acrylic can typically
be used like oil paint, many artists have used it in a manner
that echoes the watercolor tradition.
Watercolor is a tradition
that spans the chronicles of history. Primitive man used pigments
mixed with water to create cave paintings by applying the
paint with fingers, sticks and bones. Ancient Egyptians used
water-based paints to decorate the walls of temples and tombs
and created some of the first works on paper, made of papyrus.
But it was in the Far and Middle East that the first watercolor
schools or predominant styles emerged in the modern sense.
Chinese and Japanese
masters painted on silk as well as exquisite handmade paper.
Their art was filled with literary allusion and calligraphy,
but the primary image was typically a contemplative landscape.
This characteristic anticipated what was to be a central aspect
of Western watercolor traditions in later centuries. In India
and Persia, the opaque gouache paintings created by the Moslems
depicted religious incidents derived from Byzantine art.
During the Middle Ages,
monks of Europe used tempera to create illuminated manuscripts.
These books were considered a major form of art, equivalent
to easel painting in later years. Taking many years of service
to complete, the monks copied the scriptures by hand onto
sheets of parchment made from sheepskin, or vellum made from
calfskin. Sometimes, entire pages were decorated with elaborate
scrollwork and symbolic images. The most famous illuminated
book was by the Limbourg brothers, Paul, Herman, and Jean
(Flemish, c.1385-c.1416). This calendar, "Les Tres Riches
Heures du Duc de Berry" or sometimes called "The Book of Hours,"
was created about 1415. Medieval artists also worked in fresco
which continued throughout the Renaissance. Fresco is a method
by which pigments are mixed with water and applied to wet
plaster. This method was used primarily to create large wall
paintings and murals by such artists as Michelangelo (Italian,
1475-1564) and Leonardo da Vinci (Italian, 1452-1519). The
most famous fresco is Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel of the
Vatican painted from 1508 to 1512.
Paper has also played
an important role in the development of watercolor. China
has been manufacturing paper since ancient times. The Arabs
learned their secrets during the eighth century. Paper was
imported to Europe until the first papermaking mills were
finally established in Italy in 1276. A few other mills developed
later in other parts of Europe, while England developed its
first mills by 1495. However, high-quality paper was not produced
in Britain until much later during the eighteenth century.
Since paper was considered
a luxury item in these early ages, traditional Western watercolor
painting was slow in evolving. The increased availability
of paper by the fourteenth century finally allowed for the
possibility of drawing as an artistic activity. So artists
like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo began to develop drawings
as a tool for practice and for recording information. Albrecht
Durer (German, 1471-1528) is traditionally considered the
first master of watercolor because his works were full renderings
used as preliminary studies for other works. Over the next
250, years many other artists like Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish,
1577-1640), Anthony van Dyck (Flemish, 1599-1641) and Jean
Honore Fragonard (French, 1732-1806) continued to use watercolor
as a means of drawing and developing compositions.
With the production of
higher quality papers in the late eighteenth century, the
first national school of watercolorists emerged in Britain.
This watercolor tradition began with topographical drawings
that proliferated in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth
centuries as Britain began to grow as a world power. These
map-like renderings encompassed visual identity of ports of
sea, as well as the surrounding landscape. In 1768, influential
topographers founded the Royal Academy which encouraged watercolorists
to carry the medium beyond their own technical achievements.
The most talented watercolorist from this period was Joseph
M.W. Turner (English, 1775-1851) who went on to become one
of the greatest painters of the nineteenth century. His contemplative
landscapes were tremendously influential on dozens of artists
during later decades.
The technology of watercolor
developments corresponded with the evolution and advancement
of the British school of watercolorists. In the 1780's, a
British company began producing paper made especially for
watercolorists which was treated with sizing, or glazing,
to prevent washes from sinking into the fibers of the paper.
Early watercolorists ground their own pigments, but by the
late eighteenth century the Englishman, William Reeves, was
selling them in portable cakes. In 1846, Winsor & Newton introduced
colors packaged in metal tubes. This growing technology encouraged
many European artists to experiment with watercolors until
eventually the tradition spread to America.
The earliest watercolor
drawings produced in America were created for factual documentation
of the "new world." As early as the 1560's, European explorers
carried this visual information back to the "old world". The
first of these important artists was Mark Catesby (English,
1679-1749). He came to Virginia in 1712 and documented hundreds
of species of American birds and plant life with hand-colored
engravings. Catesby's prints foreshadow the ever-popular romantic
and analytical depictions of American wildlife by John James
Audubon (American, 1785-1851). Audubon did his first study
in 1805. He eventually devoted himself to recording this aspect
of the North American continent in a manner seldom equaled
in any other medium.
American artists worked
in the shadow of European masters until the late nineteenth
century. Gradually, skilled and talented artists like Thomas
Eakins (1844-1916), Winslow Homer (1836-1910) and James A.
M. Whistler (1834-1903) began to develop artworks which challenged
European artists. The rise of American watercolor coincides
with international rise and recognition of American painting.
American artists embraced watercolor as a primary medium equal
to oil painting. This was not common in nineteenth century
Europe except in England. Both American and English artists
utilized watercolor for important paintings. By 1866, the
interest in the medium was so pronounced that the American
Society of Painters in Water Color was founded and for the
first time watercolors were shown in galleries among oil paintings.
Although Americans inherited
a technique developed by the British, they were more interested
in experimenting with watercolor in their own way. American
artists, therefore, created works which were uniquely individual
in comparison. They were free of rigid English traditions
and the slow evolution of the British school. In this way
the American school was able to explode with an abundance
of important figures between the 1870's and the revolutionary
Armory Show in New York in 1913 which included John Singer
Sargent (1856-1925), John Marin (1870-1953) and Maurice Prendergast
(1859-1924). Each artist represented an individual and unique
approach to the medium. Since there was no particular American
school or style of watercolor, the entire group represented
"individualism" as a key factor in American art.
During the 1940's, artistic
experimentation became a major focus in the New York art scene
resulting in the development of Abstract Expressionism. Watercolor
began to lose a certain amount of its popularity. It was not
a medium which played a role in the evolution of the new movement
in abstraction. Watercolors were small and intimate in scale
and were subordinate to the huge canvases of the Abstract
However, one such artist,
Mark Rothko (1903-1970) utilized large areas of transparent
washes and color staining on his canvases to create large
scale works which were atmospheric, contemplative and reminiscent
of the watercolor tradition. Later, a second generation of
Abstract Expressionist including Sam Francis (1923-1994) and
Paul Jenkins (b. 1923) also employed similar wash methods
to produce transparent color fields on large canvases. By
incorporating watercolor techniques into canvas painting,
American artists not only re-popularized the medium but continued
a long tradition of innovative experimentation.
Excerpted from Springfield