The Emergence of the Professional Watercolourist: Contentions and Alliances in the Artistic Domain, 1760¿1824

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Drawing on extensive primary research, Greg Smith describes the shifting cultural identities of the English watercolour, and the English watercolourist, at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century. His convincing narrative of the conflicts and alliances that marked the history of the medium and its practitioners during this period includes careful detail about the broader artistic context within which watercolours were produced, acquired and discussed.

Smith calls into question many of the received assumptions about the history of watercolour painting. His account exposes the unsatisfactory nature of the traditional narrative of watercolour painting's development into a ‘high' art form, which has tended to offer a celebratory focus on the innovations and genius of individual practitioners such as Turner and Girtin, rather than detailing the anxieties and aspirations that characterised the ambivalent status of the watercolourist.

The Emergence of the Professional Watercolourist is published with the assistance of the Paul Mellon Foundation.

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Editorial Reviews

A freelance historian with a background in art museums, Smith illuminates the period during which water color emerged from its utilitarian upbringing and became increasingly accepted as suited to prestigious artistic statements and, especially in landscape, became linked to the most challenging aesthetic practices of the day. He finds the standard accounts unsatisfactory: little more than a triumphfulist progress, with key artists marking the progress toward naturalism or even modern art. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Introduction: 'Profession' and the social history of watercolours 1
1 The development and maintenance of the media hierarchy: watercolours, oils and the Royal Academy 13
Problems of identity and definition: watercolour enters the public domain, 1760-1768 13
Watercolourists and their work at the Royal Academy, 1768-c.1812 23
Watercolour versus oil, c.1800-1824 33
2 Dangerous associations 1: watercolour and artisanal practices 51
Replication, mass production, mechanisation, and the division of labour: the status of watercolour practice compromised 51
Watercolourists and artisans: defending borders and transcending boundaries 72
3 Dangerous associations 2: professionals and amateurs 97
A troubling presence: the amateur in the public domain 97
Charlatans, masters, and drudges: the watercolourist as a teacher 107
Encouraging emulation and maintaining distinctions 115
4 Creating new markets for watercolours 133
The 'painting in water colours': the emergence of a fashionable and modern commodity, c.1790-1805 133
Diversification and specialisation: new subject types, c.1805-1824 143
Embracing commerce: the exhibitions of the Society of Painters in Water Colours, 1805-1824 155
A middle-class market emerges? 165
5 Establishing professional status and identity, c.1795-1824 177
Two contrasting alliances: the watercolour societies and the professional ideal 177
The 'progress of water colours': a triumph for the English School, 1805-1824 191
The watercolourist as genius 210
Conclusion: Watercolourists and their art in 1824 229
Select bibliography 233
Index 251
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