Watercolour is often associated with tradition, yet it is a versatile and eclectic art form with a long history of innovation and change. One of the most significant factors in its evolution is the close relationship between the properties of the paint and the way in which it can be applied. Many techniques were established with a conventional set of apparatuses materials (brushes, paints and paper) to exploit and control its two most distinctive qualities: liquidity (or wateriness) and transparency (the way that light is reflected through it). However, watercolour can be used in many other ways, employing a variety of tools and products.
This room presents a history of changing materials and processes from the late sixteenth century to the present day. Many of the important moments in the advancement of the medium were the result of innovations by British artists and manufacturers. Objects on the wall and in the display cases present a broad chronological survey of key developments, and provide an introduction to the commonest techniques and terminology. Additionally, insights into the approaches of four contemporary practitioners reveal the range and flexibility of watercolour, and demonstrate how the medium is being challenged and reinvigorated today.