The Joy of Watercolours

The Joy of Watercolours

03/08/2020     General News

What is so exciting about Victorian watercolours is the sheer variety that can be found, from different schools, influences, techniques,subjects and artists, and also a huge range in price. It is wonderful that very beautiful watercolours can be purchased for very little, even when the draughtsmanship and technique involved in watercolours is so good due to its delicate medium.The Victorians provided us with some of the most stunning, beautiful and sublime watercolours from any period and they are out there waiting to be discovered,whatever your budget!



People ask me what they should look for or focus on when buying watercolours, but this is just a matter of choice – there are many ways to start a collection, for example, some people focus a particular artist,or a particular genre -  Edward Radford and Charles Green are known for portraits and domestic scenes; Elliot H Marten and Wilmot Pilsburg concentrated on landscapes; Frederick James Aldridge and FredDade specialised in seascapes; while the country scenes of Claude Hayes, Thomas Nicholson Tyndale, and the Stannard family are charming and all of which feature in our specialist Fine Art auction on the 29th August.



Another way to collect is by concentrating on local artists, at Stamford Auction Rooms, there are many watercolours that are sold by local artists, to local people and what makes this appealing is that a lot of the time the scenes are of local landmarks or landscapes, an example of this is the Fraser family of Huntingdonshire.

In my opinion the key thing, as with any antique,is to buy what pleases you! My two personal favourite watercolours are unsigned,and the value very low, however I love the fine detail, and the unusual composition of them, so I have chosen them through aesthetic appeal rather than anything else. I also find that botanical and ornithological studies which tend to be very fine, full of colour and detail, and often are a series of studies can look fantastic on the wall.



For further reading I recommend Christopher Wood’s Dictionary of Victorian Painters that lists thousands of artists who were professional painters and it a book I often refer to, but also remember that there were justas many good amateurs and semi-professionals. It is true to say that most middle and upper class Victorians painted and the Stamford Auction Rooms often sells sketch books including watercolours painted by amateurs - for them it was similar to our use of the camera today, and people routinely recorded events of interest in watercolours.




When buying, always have a good look on the reverse to see if you can find any faint pencil inscriptions. Often these have been missed by previous owners and can provide a title/view, address of the artist and sometimes exhibition history or the original price paid. If the work is signed, see if the artist is recorded in any of the well-known dictionaries.


Keep watercolours away from direct sunlight and use ultraviolet filtering glass for framing helps prevent fading. Avoid humidity as this can cause mildew,which is known as ‘foxing’ and usually shows as small dark brown spots on the surface, and this can be rectified by a painting restorer.



All the watercolours featured in this article will be up for sale in our Fine Art Auction on Saturday 29th August 2020 at 10am. Contact us for more information.

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