The Emergence of the Professional Watercolourist: Contentions and Alliances in the Artistic Domain, 1760–1824, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Emergence of the Professional Watercolourist

Contentions and Alliances in the Artistic Domain, 1760–1824, 1st Edition

By Greg Smith


288 pages

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Hardback: 9781138739567
pub: 2017-12-18
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This title was first published in 2002: Draw ing 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 characterized the ambivalent status of the watercolourist. The Emergence of the Professional Watercolourist is published with the assistance of the Paul Mellon Foundation.


'An impressive text that will powerfully influence the direction of scholarship in late eighteenth-century early nineteenth-century art.'

- Mark Hallett, University of York

'Greg Smith's book is the first full-length account to look in any detail at the complex range of issues surrounding the establishment of the Society, and, as such, is to be welcomed wholeheartedly… while Pyne's influence on later writers, we now realise, had been practically all-pervading, Smith's aim is to step out of his critical shadow and introduce new terms of reference.'

- Timothy Wilcox, British Music writing in the Burlington Magazine

'(a) fascinating and rewarding book … a book to savour and enjoy … welcome for its portrayal of economic and social conditions of the time…'

- The Artist

'This is a fascinating contribution to the social history of British art. By showing the way in which artists adept in various practices contributed to the rise of watercolour, and by focussing on the politics inherent in the rivalry between the protagonists of the "new" medium and the old guard of the Royal Academy, Dr Smith shows how important questions about the nature of "high" and "popular" were asked and answered then, questions that are still being posed today.'

- The Art Newspaper

'This deeply impressive study will surely be referred to as a standard work on this topic of many years.'

- Adrian Lewis, The Art Book

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: 'Profession' and the social history of watercolours; Contentions: The development and maintenance of the media hierarchy: watercolours, oils and the Royal Academy; Dangerous associations 1: watercolour and artisanal practices; Dangerous associations 2: professionals and amateurs; Alliances: Creating new markets for watercolours; Establishing professional status and identity, c. 1795-1824; Conclusion: Watercolourists and their art in 1824: Bibliography; Index.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / Techniques / Watercolor Painting