For some collectors, the watercolour, no matter how good, is the poor relation in the art world. The typical watercolour is usually small, pastoral and has a rapid sketch quality unlike the big boy, oil. The watercolour is often associated with spinster ladies in Tilley Hats and tends to fetch lower prices at art auctions. Historical analysis tells another story. The watercolour, either British or American, has a storied history. Practitioners such as Edward Hopper, Winslow Homer, James McNeill Whistler, and William Blake excelled in the medium and, as far as I know, did not wear Tilly Hats. I admire those brave enough to try watercolour as it can be an unforgiving medium. Not much margin for error. Two watercolourists who caught my eye and worked their way into my collection are Daniel Barkley and Tristram Lansdowne. Both show remarkable technique, but it is the subject matter which commands attention. Barkley’s large portrait of “Grant” is powerful, evocative, an in your face piece that commands attention because the subject is both vulnerable and challenging. The Lansdowne work is one of a series in which he recorded the various shelters built by the homeless in Toronto. Although quite different in subject matter, both these works show watercolour’s ability to engage the viewer and collector.
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Photos and article: TOM MAUNDER