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Great British Watercolours


Paul Mellon thought British watercolours were extraordinary and collected about 50,000 of them.

Seen last year at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, and the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia, the exhibition Great British Watercolors From the Paul Mellon Collection celebrates "not a connoisseur's passion, nor even British mastery of a particular kind of painting, but the importance of English artists in transforming a medium once thought of as purely utilitarian. . ."

Some of the 18th and 19th century British artists who are represented - John Constable, Thomas Gainsborough, William Blake, JMW Turner, the satirist Thomas Rowlandson, Alexander Cozens (the son of an Englishwoman and Peter the Great), his son John Robert Cozens, Richard Parkes Bonington, Thomas Girtin, Samuel Palmer, Paul Sandby and John Cotman.

Many of their names are unfamiliar to me, but they seem to have transformed watercolours, once used as an illustrative wash for medieval manuscripts, into breathtaking visions.

You can see the exhibit at the Yale Center for British Art through August 17.

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