The traditionality of watercolours has led to its decline in recent years, but what many forget is that they often predate other forms of art.
Before photography, there was watercolour, and it was with this delicate and detailed medium that artists throughout history were able to record the world as it was.
Watercolours provice a unique insight into the lives, culture, and world that we will never get a chance to see or experience.
Historical watercolours are documents that allow us to experience the past in a way that words never could.
Sadly, watercolour is often dismissed as a poor relation in the art world, but in recent years this beautiful art form has seen a revival.
Thanks to the work of UK-based charity Watercolour World, watercolours from across the globe have been given a new lease of life.
The organisation has dedicated itself to digitising pre-1900 watercolours to ensure these incredible pieces of our history are not lost.
To date, Watercolour World has digitised more than 80,000 original watercolours from public and private collections across the glob.
Often, these pieces have been stored away for years by art collectors, museums, and galleries who are simply trying to preserve historic work.
By keeping them in acid-free, temperature-controlled environments, the lifespan of these delicate pieces can be prolonged, but at what cost?
Preserving and protecting our history is integral to how we learn and grow as a society, but this endeavour is worthless if we cannot ever look at these pieces.
Watercolour World is therefore helping to revive them by preserving them digitally in an online database. Every year, Watercolour World’s growing archive welcomes more works from public and private collections to protect our history in a way that we can all benefit from.
Over the past five years, the organisation has worked in collaboration with PFU, a Fujitsu company, to deploy modern portable scanning technologies to assist with its mission to digitise watercolours.
This unique collaboration has permitted their teams to capture digital images of even the most fragile watercolours safely. The innovative LED technology used in the scanning process ensures no light or heat is emitted, protecting the piece’s integrity. Each brushstroke, detail, and colour is accurately recorded and recreated in the digital space as a high-resolution image, ready to be added to their database.
The lightfastness of some pigments means that they cannot be removed from their frames, so PFU uses their state of the art ScanSnap SV600. This scanner works effectively in a range of conditions, and can even capture perfect replica images through glass.
Once scanned, collectors can have peace of mind knowing that their prized watercolour collections will live on and be enjoyed for generations to come.
This free digital database not only allows you to endlessly search through thousands of incresdible never before seen watercolour works, but it also allows you to travel the world.
Watercolour art offers us so much more than just aesthetic beauty; it provides insight into the world before photography and a time forgotten. A World Map page helps you browse images according to the part of the world they depict, while a search section allows you to find pieces of interest based on keywords.
To quote artist Jonathan Herrera: “If it is inaccessible to the poor, it is neither radical nor revolutionary.”
In many senses, the work of Watercolour World and its revival of this overlooked art form is revolutionary.
While for many years the world of art has been reserved for the upper classes, watercolour world’s free database is ensuring that art is accessible to people from all walks of life. If we are to learn, grow and succeed as a society, we must all have access to arts, culture and most importantly, our collective history.
If you are interested in finding out more about how Watercolour World is helping to revive this overlooked art form, you can explore its database here.