The fascinating world of watercolor landscape paintings offers images which, not only celebrate Nature, its lavish landscapes, beaches, and wildlife but are images which give praise to one of the oldest techniques in art history. Used to color the walls of churches, and to illustrate and make lavish the manuscripts of the past, the watercolor technique is one that showcases the true mastery and skill of the artists. Many used the transparency and the lightness of the tones to capture the shifts of light occurring in nature, while others used the intensity of color to produce images which play with different tones, and values. As an easy medium to carry, artists from the past used watercolor to produce watercolor landscape paintings which documented early discoveries of the world.
Next to drawing, watercolor is one of the most common methods of creation and a number of contemporary artists have decided to devote their practice to the mastering of this technique. Following us from the early times of traditional art making, through to the period of radical change of the20th century, the following images display just how versatile the medium truly is.
All images used for illustrative purposes only. Featured image: William Turner – Artwork. Image via watercolorpainting.com
William Blake - The Ancient Days
Compared to the painting medium and the various printmaking techniques, watercolor remained a minor discipline within the visual arts. Yet, thanks to the poet, painter, and the visionary artist William Blake, who discovered yet again its illustrative powers the medium was re-enforced. Blake typically used the watercolor technique for the coloring of his prints and for the creation of his illustrations. His poetry, and his images followed the tradition of visionary art, and it focused on the creation of artworks which reflected the world of the unknown, of dreams, and of messages from the realm invisible to the eyes. As such, many of his images are considered to represent the world of fantasy, prayers, and messages from above.
Featured image: William Blake – The Ancient Days. Image via widewalls.ch
William Turner - Venice Looking East from the Guidecca, Sunrise
For William Turner, watercolor was an ideal medium for the plein air painting. The artist was famous for the creation of landscape images, which, due to their highly expressionistic quality, existed on the edge of abstract landscapes art. Focused on the representation of the English countryside and seascapes, the artist elevated the landscape paintings into a vital discipline where it previously was the domain of amateur naturalists and hobbyists. More importantly, Turner’s approach to watercolor landscape paintings and art production in general is said to have anticipated the Impressionist movement by over 50 years.
Featured image: William Turner – Venice Looking East from the Guidecca, Sunrise. Image via wikiart.com
James McNeill Whistler - Flower Market
Compared to his celebrated painting Mother, which is often cited to represent Whistler’s style of production, the lightness and the easy portability of the watercolor medium, allowed the artist to produce vibrant and alive sketches of the world surrounding him. His color choice, and the quick application of paint, gives his sketches, such as this one of the Flower Market, a sense of a bursting energy and of life. His energetic brushstrokes are in contrast to the much more somber value of color frequently used in his oil paintings. This British artist, for sure was not the only one which took advantage of the quick medium which is watercolor.
Featured image: James McNeill Whistler – Flower Market. Image via craftsy.com
Paul Klee - Red and White Domes
Following the path laid out before them by the famous Impressionistand Post-Impressionist artists, many painters began to experiment with form and abstraction of the world. One such artist was Paul Klee, famous not only for his poetic interpretation and symbolic references to the world, but for his amazing combination of colors, and expressive line. His watercolor landscapes often depicted the city around him. His image Red and White Domesillustrates the avant-garde approach to art, which, as we have mentioned incorporates geometric shapes, and the flattening of the planes, one of the many characteristics of the Cubist movement. Paul Klee was known to produce in various styles, ranging from Expressionism to Cubism, and watercolors played a part in his abstract explorations.
Featured image: Paul Klee – Red and White Domes. Image via pinterest.com
Georgia O’Keeffe - Sunrise
Between 1916 and 1918 the American artist, Georgia O’Keeffe, lived in Canyon, Texas. It is here, and thanks to the magic of the watercolor techniques, that the artist explored the vibrant colors and shapes in nature. These were crucial for her style of art production. Celebrated as the mother of American modernism O’Keeffe was famous for her abstraction of natural shapes which let to a more poetic view of the world. Creating over 50 watercolor landscape paintings, O’Keefee pays homage to the drawing and watercolor medium. These are often understood to pay homage to the revolutionary techniques of her mentor, Arthur Wesley Dow. O’Keeffe’s watercolors explore the texture and landscape of the Texas desert and the artist’s own body in an exceptionally fragile and sensitive medium.
Featured image: Georgia O’Keeffer – Sunrise. Image via widewalls.ch
Edward Hopper - Watercolor Landscape
Acknowledged as the most important realist painters of 20th-century, Edward Hopper’s visions of reality was a selective one. Inspired by empty cityscapes, landscapes, and isolated figures he chose to paint, the artist showcases that the interpretation of the reality is not merely a literal or photographic copying of what we see, but a deeper and reflective understanding of the world. His images, which investigate the subtle qualities of light, have a certain atmosphere which many connect to cinematic arts.
Featured image: Edward Hopper – Watercolor Landscape. Image via pinterest.com
Henry Darger - Jenny and Her Sisters are Nearly Run Down by Train
Inhabiting the realm of dreams, and describing a rich and colorful world of fantasies, the production of the illustrator Henry Darger for sure is one of the most mysterious ones on this list. Darger focused his entire life illustrating his own stories reflecting the adventures of the brave Vivian girls. His figures occupy some of the most beautiful and magical landscapes ever illustrated. It was not until after Darger’s death that the full scope of his artistic production became known. His landlord, Nathan Lerner, himself an artist and inventor, discovered Darger’s artworks after the artist was sent to a nursing home just before the end of his life.
Featured image: Henry Darger – Jenny and Her Sisters are Nearly Run Down by Train. Image via huffingtonpost.com
Edward Burra - Watercolor Landscape
One train of thought defines the British painter Edward Burra as a satirist and connects him to the production of the German artist Otto Dix, while the other views him as a social realist due to his sharp and distorting eye of the human nature, and landscape. His life-long battle with rheumatoid arthritis and a debilitating blood disease meant that he was never able to use an easel in the conventional way. Instead, he opted to sit, working mostly in unfashionable watercolor on thick paper laid flat on a table. The artist is most famous for his early images of the city life and landscapes. He often switched from various subject matters, but nature and the human characters remained the artist’s interests until the end.
Featured image: Edward Burra – Artwork. Image via pinterest.com
David Hockney - Abstract Watercolor Landscape
As one of the British most prolific artists, David Hockney’s images speak the true language of color. Celebrated as a portraiture painter, as a documentary of the LA life, and the hot days by the pool, Hockney’s career is defined by the artist’s attempts to reintegrate a personal subject-matter into his art. Numerous portraits of the artist’s friends, colleagues, and family members reflect the tender and deep insight the artist had for his sitters. This tender understanding of his subjects is also reflected in his watercolor landscape paintings. In such images, the artist pays homage to the smallest detail that for many would go on unnoticed, confirming how keen of an observer Hockney truly is.
Featured image: David Hockney – Abstract Watercolor Landscape. Image vie pinterest.com
Cecily Brown - Untitled
Viewing the world through women’s eyes and always pushing the boundaries of figurative and abstract production,Cecily Brown has placed her production in between the two extremes. Her depictions of the female nudes, are sensual and at the same time often difficult to define. Her images, often linked to the Abstract Expressionism movement, speak of power, of new definitions, and these are just a few of the reasons why many admire Brown’s production. The stylization of her figures transforms to the landscapes they inhabit as well.