A celebration of the diverse world of American watercolors from the late nineteenth through the twentieth century, featuring works from the Harvard Art Museums’ collection
Watercolor holds a special place in the history of American art. For generations of artists, the medium has provided a space for innovation and experimentation, allowing practitioners to let their imagination loose and to reflect on process and perception. Its rise to the status of fine art in the decades following the Civil War is well documented, yet its continued role as a testing ground and means of generating new ideas throughout the twentieth century has received comparatively less attention.
This volume considers continuity and change in the American watercolor tradition over a century of production through the lens of the Harvard Art Museums’ collection. Works by well-known watercolorists such as Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler are included, as well as surprising additions from Zelda Fitzgerald, Alexander Calder, Claes Oldenburg, and many others. In the spirit of the medium, the authors take a fluid and open-ended approach to the topic, offering both personal and scholarly reflections that invite readers to ponder the influence of these works on their own experience of the world. In addition to contextual essays, there are close readings of singular works and examinations of the unique material characteristics of the watercolor medium.