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British Watercolors from the Permanent Collection at the Palmer Museum of Art

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Francis Towne, On the River near Bath, 1783, pen and ink with watercolor and gra

The exhibition, British Watercolors from the Permanent Collection, celebrates the so-called Golden Age of British watercolors, the period spanning roughly from 1750 to 1850, when the medium reached its pinnacle in the hands of artists such as John Varley, Francis Towne, David Cox, and Peter de Wint, all of whom are represented in the exhibition. Also on view are several early sketches by John Ruskin, the English critic whose devotion to nature harmonized with many of the more practiced watercolorists, and two picturesque studies of southern China by George Chinnery. The exhibition, which runs from January 7 to May 4, 2014, is free and open to the public.

Although painting with watercolor reaches as far back as the sixteenth century in Europe—Albrecht Dürer’s animal and bird studies come immediately to mind—the medium blossomed as an autonomous approach only in the middle years of the eighteenth century. Watercolor became particularly attractive in England, where the acceptance of landscape as an appropriate subject matter, coupled with the widespread availability of readily portable cakes of water soluble pigment that allowed artists to work sur le motif, led to a tradition that, by the early years of the nineteenth century, grew to rival oil painting in beauty and desirability.

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