Friday, June 19, 2009

Part 4: Early American Watercolor Artists

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.

Miss Eden
John Singer Sargent
Watercolor on paper

John Marin
Marin Island
Watercolor on paper

Bridge and Steps, Venice
Maurice Prendergast
Watercolor on paper

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