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1,000 of our watercolours join ambitious new digital project, Watercolour World

Mon 2 Oct 2017

Close to 1,000 paintings from our collection form part of an ambitious project to make available to the public more than three centuries’ worth of documentary watercolours from around the world.

The Watercolour World project, which over the weekend received royal backing from both The Prince of Wales and his wife The Duchess of Cornwall, aims to create a unique visual history of the world by giving online users access to digitised documentary watercolours dating from before 1900.

With tens of thousands of pictures already in the process of being uploaded, the project website is set to become a significant new source of global history when it is launched in March next year.

Amongst the tens of thousands of pictures already in the process of being uploaded are a 19th century depiction of the Pink Terraces at Lake Rotomahana by the renowned Auckland-based watercolourist JC Hoyte (1835-1913) and a painting of a Common Seadragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus) from Fortescue Bay in Tasmania by ichthyologist and scientific illustrator Frank Edward Clarke (1849 – 1899) who discovered numerous fish species previously unknown to science.

Announcing the project, Founder and Chairman Fred Hohler said:

“A re-evaluation of the documentary record contained in watercolours is bringing back into focus a fascinating but largely ignored visual record of the cultures and countries of our world from the Age of Enlightenment through to the modern era.

“By sourcing and digitising these watercolours – many more of which will be discovered during the course of this project – we are giving online users the ability to explore specific locations throughout the world through over three hundred years’ worth of watercolour painting.

“We are hugely honoured Their Royal Highnesses have taken the highly unusual step of becoming joint Royal Patrons, which reflects both their and our own commitment to providing public access to the visual arts.”

Commenting on our contribution, Chief Executive Geraint Martin said: “As a world leader in interactive museum experiences, Te Papa is delighted to be contributing to this innovative Watercolour World project which seeks to increase public access to a visual understanding of the world in way that has never been attempted before. It’s a hugely ambitious project which has our fullest support.”

The Watercolour World digital library will include images of documentary watercolours covering topography, anthropology and botany as well as historic events, people and places.

Visitors to the website will be able to explore the watercolours via an interactive map and will have the opportunity to help identify unknown locations, join in discussions and deepen all our understanding of this unique historical record.

More information about The Watercolour World