The history of the English landscape is a large and complex topic. And a special place in it is occupied by a talented artist - William Turner, whose deeply emotional…

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Frescoes in the slough
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Watercolor is often called the most moody and unpredictable technique. This is due to many nuances of the behavior of water-based paints. An artist inexperienced in watercolor painting, even observing all the rules, may not get the result he was counting on. But at the same time, watercolor is a very grateful technique, because it allows you to get the subtle nuances of halftones that are inaccessible to any other technique.

Watercolor came to Europe during the Renaissance. All lovers of ancient painting know the “Hare” by Albrecht Durer. But only in the XVIII century, masters of English painting were the first to actively use watercolor and developed the basic principles of this technique.

When exactly the watercolor came to England – is unknown. Perhaps it was brought in by the great Dutchman Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641), who was a court painter of James I and Charles I. His work aroused keen interest of English artists of that era, and the desire to adopt his methods was completely natural.

For a long time, watercolor was used for strictly utilitarian purposes – by geologists, topographers, architects in the design of castles and even military intelligence. One of these topographers was Paul Sandby, considered the founder of the watercolor landscape genre.

Paul Sandby (1725-1809) was the first to think that the watercolor technique can be used to create large paintings. The artist traveled extensively throughout the UK and created many watercolor paintings depicting the country’s most beautiful castles and estates. Thanks to him in England there was a real commotion, “fashion for Britain.” Sandby’s watercolors were translated into engravings and printed in mass editions; his plots were reproduced in the interiors of houses and estates, applied to porcelain.

Sandby brushes belong to the first paintings that can be considered serious watercolor works. These are mainly landscapes painted by him while traveling around the country.

Paul Sandby became one of the founders of the Royal Academy of Arts, and subsequently received the unofficial title of “father of English watercolor.” But the real rise of watercolor painting in England is associated with the names of other artists.

Before proceeding to the presentation of the further evolution of watercolor painting in England, it is necessary to say two words about the era that began in the art of Europe – about the onset of the period of romanticism.

Classicism has been the dominant direction in European art for almost a century. At the end of the Georgian period, classicism, with its commitment to canons, began to become a burden on the path of the development of art, and the ideology of romanticism with its desire for rebellion, the destruction of stereotypes, and the freedom of creativity became more widespread.

The emergence of romanticism had completely material foundations. The second half of the 18th century was a time of rapid development of industry, the involvement of significant masses of the population in active life, an unprecedented expansion of the people’s horizons. The apotheosis was the events of the French Revolution of 1789, which shook all of Europe.

It is no accident that it was precisely in the era of the spread of romanticism that the true full-blooded history of watercolors begins, a technique that gave considerable freedom of visual means, freedom of expression, allowed to destroy old dogmas and create their own, new rules.

One of the founders of the English watercolor school was Thomas Goertin (1775-1802). Like many watercolors, Gertin mastered the technique, working on topographic and architectural drawings. However, he quickly moved away from the monochrome topographic style and was almost the first to use all the richness of watercolor in creating halftones. Gurtin’s interesting find was the use of grayish paper instead of white, which gave his paintings a special touch.

Gertin also abandoned the compositional canons of topographic and architectural drawing. He could well have left empty space in the foreground of the picture, placing the main object of his interest on the side or in the distance. His compositional decisions were an important step in the transition of watercolors to the rank of an independent type of fine art.

Guertin died of tuberculosis in his studio, working on another painting. Best described by the scale of the artist’s talent, his longtime friend, one of the greatest painters of the era, William Turner. “If Gurtin was alive, I would starve to death,” he said.

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