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Watercolour masters on show in Oldham

A new exhibition at Gallery Oldham shows off an impressive collection of watercolours

Published on January 8th 2010.


Watercolour masters on show in Oldham

Having a high-profile attraction like Manchester Art Gallery or the Whitworth Art Gallery on your doorstep means that the art collections owned by surrounding boroughs often get overlooked. This new exhibition at Gallery Oldham ought to change that, for the next few months at least.

If you’re a fan of sweeping Romantic landscapes, classical scenes, and dramatic Alpine vistas, you’re advised to go and have a look. After all watercolours have a special character, they capture the fleeting nature of an experience, the lightness of being you might say.

The Great British Watercolours exhibition showcases watercolours owned by Oldham and Burnley, which make up one of the finest collections in the UK. It features paintings by artists of national and international significance, and has a range that spans from the beginnings of watercolour in the 1880s up until the late twentieth century.

Major works in the exhibition include ‘Carnarvon Castle’ by Paul Sandby (1903). Sandby is often considered the ‘father’ of British watercolour painting, and he was one of the first artists to experiment with the use of bodycolour (also known as gouache) to achieve stronger colour effects. This technique can be seen in ‘Carnarvon Castle’ where it’s used to create incident and a sense of excitement.

Another stunning piece to look out for is ‘Two Great Temples at Paestum’ by John Robert Cozens from the 1780s. Cozens is credited with bringing grandeur and drama to the watercolour medium, which was traditionally used for gentle pastoral scenery. He was perhaps the single greatest influence on the next generation of British masters including JMW Turner and John Constable.

‘Linen Carriers in a Ligurian Palace’ by Sir William Russell Flint is another highlight of the exhibition. He’s considered by many to be the finest watercolour painter of the twentieth century and he was a master of the ‘wet in wet’ technique, which involved the careful control of washes of watercolour onto wet paper. In this painting, Flint creates a convincing impression of reflected light under cool stone arches.

If you’re a fan of sweeping Romantic landscapes, classical scenes, and dramatic Alpine vistas, you’re advised to go and have a look. After all watercolours have a special character, they capture the fleeting nature of an experience, the lightness of being you might say. They are imbued with the main quality of the element which gives the medium its name: water. They are fluid translation of what the artist sees or imagines, and they have all the immediacy and spontaneity that implies.

There’ll be a free lunchtime talk about the exhibition on Wednesday 10 February at 1pm (no need to book) and a behind the scenes event, including an extended tour of the watercolours collection on Tuesday 2 February at 2pm. This event is free but you’ll need to book as numbers are limited.

Great British Watercolours, Gallery Oldham, Cultural Quarter, Greaves Street, Oldham, OL1 1AL, 16 January-28 February 2010, Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm. Sunday 10am-4pm, free, 0161 770 4653, www.galleryoldham.org.uk.

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GordoJanuary 8th 2010.

Went v. late to the Angels of Anarchy piece at the City Art Gallery yesterday. How fantastic have the Curating team of our museums and galleries become, I was slack jawed for an hour. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

JMW TurnerJanuary 8th 2010.

I'll be there.

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