Strength and subtlety

Turner - The passage of the St. Gothard
Click for a larger view..
Joseph Turner
The passage of the St. Gothard

One of the most delicate forms of painting, watercolor - called aquarelle in French - is renowned for the warm glow and subtlety of its colors.

Unlike prints such as etchings, silkscreens or offset reproductions, each watercolor consists of a single unique image. Despite the fact that the pigments are applied with water - hence the name - a watercolor is as durable as any other painting or print, as long as the materials are of good quality and the paper used is acid-free.

Famous watercolorists include Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, as well as Rubens (1577-1640), Van Dyck (1599-1641), Fragonard (1732-1806) and Joseph Turner (1775-1851) - considered by many as the foremost master of the art.

The technique consists of applying multiple layers of colors, or washes, onto a specially-made paper. The transparent nature of the powder-based pigments mixed with water gives the colors a certain degree of transparency. Successive applications of these semi-transparent layers increase opacity and density, while highlights are provided by the whiteness of the paper itself, with little or no colors applied.

The use of water in thinning out the pigments gives the watercolorist an endless palette to choose from. Colors become less soluble as they dry out, but they can still be modified by adding or removing water. Other effects can be obtained by using a dry brush, a sponge, a cloth, or even a utility knife for scratching out colors.

Further variations in colors and texture can be produced by using wet instead of dry paper, warm water instead of cold, heavy- or light-grained paper. You can also combine watercolor with another medium: gouache (watercolor combined with glycerine), oil or acrylic painting, and even printing methods, such as etching, silkscreen or offset reproduction.

Actually, no artist from the Rue du Trésor use watercolor as their main mode of production, although in last years they were three.