This selection from Te Papa’s collection of watercolours is drawn from the period when watercolour painting became established in England and reached its greatest sophistication in the genre of landscape painting.
At the same time, landscape painting itself underwent a dramatic rise in popularity. The genre had come to England from Europe, and models available to English artists included the Italianate landscapes of Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin, the more factual, homely work of Dutch landscape artists, and the pen and ink and flat wash topographical technique of Bohemian artist Wenceslaus Hollar.
English artists began to look at their own environment with new eyes. With better roads and communications, the development of tourism in England extended the horizons of traveller and artist alike. Formerly inaccessible regions such as Wales and the Lake District became increasingly common destinations for sketching tours, viewing nature in its wild and uncultivated state.
Advances in the methods of watercolour preparation, such as premixed paints, meant that materials could be carried and sketches painted on the spot. These and other developments led to a craze for painting the landscape amongst professional and amateur artists alike. Landscape views – either in their original watercolour form – or translated into prints, were the picture postcards of a pre-photography age.
This selection, has been drawn from the gift of Archdeacon F H D Smythe, and from works purchased in the 1950s with Sir Harold Beauchamp funds.