The Color of Nature: Recent Acquisitions of Landscape Watercolors

July 13 – September 14, 2014

West Ground Floor Gallery 22, 22A

  • The Color of Nature: Recent Acquisitons of Landscape Watercolors /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/the-color-of-nature/Originals/DEX_1.jpg

    Louis Ducros, Swiss, 1748–1810, The Waterfalls at Tivoli, c. 1790, watercolor with gouache and gum arabic and touches of pen and ink over graphite, on laid paper, Rudolf and Lore Heinemann Fund, 2002


  • The Color of Nature: Recent Acquisitons of Landscape Watercolors /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/the-color-of-nature/Originals/DEX_4.jpg

    Franz Kaisermann, Swiss, 1765–1833, The Grand Waterfalls at Terni, 1790s, watercolor and gouache over graphite, Purchased as the Gift of Alexander M. and Judith W. Laughlin, 2011

  • The Color of Nature: Recent Acquisitons of Landscape Watercolors /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/the-color-of-nature/Originals/DEX_10.jpg

    Jakob Alt, German, 1789–1872, A Seated Man Contemplating a Sunlit Mountain Valley, c. 1825, watercolor over graphite on wove paper, Purchased as the Gift of Joan and David Maxwell, 2012


  • The Color of Nature: Recent Acquisitons of Landscape Watercolors /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/the-color-of-nature/Originals/DEX_15.jpg

    William Turner of Oxford, British, 1789–1862, Dawn in the Valleys of Devon, 1832, watercolor with scratching out and gum arabic, Florian Carr Fund, 2014


  • The Color of Nature: Recent Acquisitons of Landscape Watercolors /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/the-color-of-nature/Originals/DEX_7.jpg

    Jean Achille Benouville, French, 1815–1891, Sunset from a Rocky Coastline, 1842, watercolor and gouache with pen and brown ink over graphite on blue-gray wove paper, Purchased as the Gift of Helen Porter and James T. Dyke, 2011

  • The Color of Nature: Recent Acquisitons of Landscape Watercolors /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/the-color-of-nature/Originals/DEX_13.jpg

    Félix Ziem, French, 1821–1911, Tuna Fishing at Sunrise off the Coast near Marseilles, 1860s, watercolor with pen and brown ink and touches of gum arabic over graphite, on wove paper, Purchased as the Gift of Joan and David Maxwell, 2013


  • The Color of Nature: Recent Acquisitons of Landscape Watercolors /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/the-color-of-nature/Originals/DEX_14.jpg

    James Jackson Curnock, British, 1839–1891, Trees over the River Frome at Stapleton, 1862, watercolor and gouache over traces of graphite on wove paper, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, 2014


  • The Color of Nature: Recent Acquisitons of Landscape Watercolors /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/the-color-of-nature/Originals/DEX_8.jpg

    Carl Wagner, German, 1796–1867, The Castle of Bürglen with the Alps Beyond, 1862, watercolor and black chalk on wove paper, Purchased as the Gift of Alexander M. and Judith W. Laughlin, 2011


  • The Color of Nature: Recent Acquisitons of Landscape Watercolors /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/the-color-of-nature/Originals/DEX_2.jpg

    Anton von Werner, German, 1843–1915, The Artist's Wife and Daughters in a Park at Heringsdorf, 1877, watercolor and gouache over graphite on cardboard, Purchased as the Gift of Alexander M. and Judith W. Laughlin, 2007


  • The Color of Nature: Recent Acquisitons of Landscape Watercolors /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/the-color-of-nature/Originals/DEX_17.jpg

    Jules-Ferdinand Jacquemart, French, 1837–1880, Sun-Drenched Hills near Menton, 1880, watercolor with scratching out over traces of graphite on wove paper, Purchased as the Gift of Diane Allen Nixon, 2006


  • The Color of Nature: Recent Acquisitons of Landscape Watercolors /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/the-color-of-nature/Originals/DEX_6.jpg

    François-Auguste Ravier, French, 1814–1895, Sunset over a Pond, c. 1880, watercolor with touches of gouache on pale gray paper, Purchased as a Gift in Memory of Melvin R. Seiden, 2013


  • The Color of Nature: Recent Acquisitons of Landscape Watercolors /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/the-color-of-nature/Originals/DEX_18.jpg

    Henri-Joseph Harpignies, French, 1819–1916, Evening Light on a Wooded Lakeside with Cattle Drinking, 1882, watercolor with touches of white gouache over traces of charcoal on laid paper, Purchased as the Gift of Andrea Woodner, 2006


  • The Color of Nature: Recent Acquisitons of Landscape Watercolors /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/the-color-of-nature/Originals/DEX_5.jpg

    François-Louis Français, French, 1814–1897, A Stream through a Dense Forest, 1884, watercolor and gouache with pen and gray and black ink, Purchased as a Gift in Memory of Melvin R. Seiden, 2013


  • The Color of Nature: Recent Acquisitons of Landscape Watercolors /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/the-color-of-nature/Originals/DEX_11.jpg

    Jean-Baptiste Édouard Detaille, French, 1848–1912, Soldier on Horseback, 1885, watercolor and gouache on wove paper, Purchased as the Gift of Alexander M. and Judith W. Laughlin, 2012


  • The Color of Nature: Recent Acquisitons of Landscape Watercolors /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/the-color-of-nature/Originals/DEX_16.jpg

    Franz Skarbina, German, 1849–1910, A Promenade in the Park at Sanssouci, 1885, watercolor and gouache over graphite on wove paper, Purchased as the Gift of Alexander M. and Judith W. Laughlin, 2008


Although watercolor has been used to make landscape paintings for more than 500 years, it was not until the late 18th century that this medium came into widespread use. Over the course of the 1800s, the number of watercolors produced by professional artists and amateurs alike, from rough sketches to highly finished compositions, grew exponentially. The rapid rise in the use of the medium can be largely attributed to innovations in the manufacture of watercolor paints and papers, resulting in materials that were high in quality, practical to use, and easy to transport. These improvements made the technique attractive to landscapists who painted outdoors and sought to capture the elusive effects of light, atmosphere, weather, and color. Watercolor is remarkably versatile, allowing artists to dilute, mix, and apply their paints in a variety of ways to attain a wide range of results, such as the luminosity achieved when translucent colors are applied to bright white paper. Gouache, the opaque form of watercolor created by adding white pigment to the paint, offers artists even more ways to manipulate colors and visual effects.

Thanks to a number of generous donors, more than 200 nineteenth-century European and American watercolors and gouaches have been added to the National Gallery of Art collection in just the past ten years. This exhibition features 15 of them—stunning and sun-filled landscapes by European masters that express some of the rich possibilities of this endlessly fascinating medium.

Image: Jules-Ferdinand Jacquemart, Sun-Drenched Hills near Menton, 1880, watercolor over graphite with scraping, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Diane Nixon Fund