The history of watercolour is closely associated with topography (the representation of places), and some of the most famous images in British art are landscapes painted with the medium. By virtue of its very fluidity, watercolour is often regarded as the ideal technique for evoking the atmosphere, climate and picturesque effects found in the British landscape. 

During the eighteenth century the portability of watercolour encouraged artists to travel overseas. With the growth of trade and empire, they became skilled at adapting watercolour usage at home to capture the landscape, light and colour of different places. As an illustrative medium it also provided documentary information and was employed to offer apparently authentic descriptions of the unfamiliar and exotic. 

Topography has changed less dramatically than other genres of watercolour. This medium is still used to convey an unchanging ideal of the British landscape. Even in the age of the photograph, watercolour could suggest an alternative way of looking at the world and in the twentieth century artists such as Mackintosh, Ravilious and Procktor continued the tradition of responding to the spirit of place.