From the eighteenth century to the present, artists who have drawn on imagination or memory have been attracted to watercolour for both aesthetic and ideological reasons. The ease with which it can be applied conveys an impression of immediacy, the sense of a vision ‘captured’ at the moment of conception. In some instances, however, the use of the brush as a drawing tool results in a precision that suggests a more considered, analytical approach to recording ideas and impressions. By exploiting watercolour’s potential to appear light and transparent or heavy and opaque, artists have been able to construct an enormous range of unsettling, dreamlike, surreal and hallucinatory images.
Personal, interiorised subjects were often employed by artists during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to challenge conventional, mimetic modes of art. These apparently marginal activities were validated by Romantic theories of art, which argued for the primacy of the imagination as a creative source. Today, it is accepted that any view of the world is subjective, and the drive to invest a figurative image with an emotional or psychological charge has become a key aspect of contemporary art practice.