The development of abstraction is generally seen as a twentieth-century phenomenon. This room, however, brings together works from across three centuries, demonstrating an established tradition of artists using the natural fluidity of watercolour to explore colour and form. The loose, unconfined nature of wash lends itself to images based upon mass and tone, rather than linear outline, while its innate transparency highlights the force of pure, rich colour. Furthermore, watercolour has a flexibility and immediacy which make it a powerful tool for personal, emotive expression. 

All the artists represented here have engaged with the physical nature of their chosen medium through the form and appearance of their work. Sometimes this reveals a measure of unpredictability as part of the creative process. On other occasions the works result from a more controlled approach to materials, or the combination of conventional watercolour with unorthodox substances and supports. Common throughout is the use of watercolour for innovative practice, reinvigorating, extending or even challenging its traditional reputation.