WATER-COLOR PAINTING, the most delicate of the graphic arts, is in an especial sense an English art. It was in England first that it attained to the dignity of a recognized artistic pursuit, and came to be—what it now is—admit tedly the rival of oil painting in bril liancy and power. It has had a large share in the modern prosperity of the fine arts, and of late has been practiced by eminent artists in various countries, as France, Germany, Austria, and the United States. In the illumination of missals water colors were used mixed with the body white; and the same is true of the miniature painting of the 18th century. Frescoes and painting in tempera were also in a sense works in water color. But the art of water color, as we now understand the term, had its origin in quite a different way. Dtirer and certain of the German, Flemish, and Dutch artists were accustomed to out line drawings with a reed pen, and fill in those outlines with an auxiliary flat wash. Gradually the hard lines were re placed by touches with the brush, and the result was a monochrome in browns and grays, bistre or India ink. These again came to be tinted, and so sug gested the full use of colors. Rembrandt often drew in brown, and added dashes of strong color; and Rubens produced something very like modern water-color drawings.
The modern art became emancipated from the old traditions by "gradual dis use of the general shadow tint, and imi tation of the local color, not alone of the objects themselves, but of every modi fication resulting from light, dark, half tint, or distance, a method which at once led to far greater truth and richness than could ever have been attained by merely passing color over the universal shadow tint." The stained drawing gradually gave way to the more perfect tinted drawing. But the tinted style predominated till 1790; and it may be said that the water colors of the 18th century were tinted monochromes. It was in the 19th century that Girtin and Turner showed what scope and power there were in the art.
Artists who used the stained and tinted manner were Melton (1726-1801), Paul Sandby, R. A. (1725-1809), often called, though without justification, "the father of the water-color art;" also, all in the last half century, Grimm, Webber, Clevely, Paris, and Rooker. Wheatley,
Westall, and Gilpin used water color as well as oil. Rowlandson, Cristall, Hills, Wright, Mortimer, Gresse, Hearne, J. R. Cozens, and Dayes greatly promoted the growing art. Nicholas Pocock (1749 1831) displayed a new richness and force. John Smith (Warwick Smith) first got beyond the weakness of mere tinting. Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) at tained great richness of tone and breadth; his compositions were grand but simple; he massed light and shade in broad and sometimes abrupt forms. J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851) soon dis tanced all his predecessors and contem poraries, and in his hands water-color painting became a new art. He wholly abandoned preliminary tinting; minute details are imitated in local color; his work is marked by breadth, fullness, warmth as well as grace. Other more or less important names are those of Dela motte, Varley, J. J. Chalon, A. E. Chalon, Samuel Prout, Peter de Wint, Liverseege, Cotman, David Cox, Essex, Richardson, Newton, Bonington, Copley, Fielding, Robson, W. Hunt, Ross, Har ding, Cattermole, Holland, Penley, Lewis, Houghton, and Pinwell; more recent are Birket Foster, Sir John Gilbert, etc. Among well-known American water color painters are: Winslow Homer, J. Francis Murphy, Childe Hassam, Robert Blum, Gifford Beale, Arthur Davies, John Sloan, Alexander Wyant, Thure de Thulstrup, etc. There are water-color clubs in New York, Philadelphia and other American cities.
The Society of Painters in Water Color was instituted in 1804; it held its first exhibition in 1805; and its annual exhibitions are now as crowded as those of the Royal Academy. Formal recogni tion of its dignity was accorded in 1882, when the society obtained a charter, and became the Royal Society of Painters in Water-Color. There are other similar associations, as the Institute of Painters in Water-Color. An admirable collection illustrative of the history of the art may be studied in the South Kensington Museum.