The University of Arizona Museum of Art and Archive of Visual Arts

To Have the World in Hand: The Art of Watercolor

John Marin, New York Landscape, 1920, watercolor, 15 x 18 inches

Selections from the UAMA Permanent Collections

May 29, 2009 – September 13, 2009

The art of watercolor is predicated on the pleasures and challenges of solubility, on the fluid capabilities of pigment suspended in water and the deft technique it has required of artists for centuries.

Organized thematically, To Have the World in Hand surveys the sites and subjects of interest to practitioners of the medium, as represented by works in the UAMA permanent collections. The exhibition features several major watercolorists of the 20th century, including Europeans Emil Nolde and Raoul Dufy, and Americans Charles Burchfield and John Marin, among others. From the earliest, most traditional examples of watercolor painting to surprising contemporary experiments, all of the works engage the characteristics of the medium: immediacy, transparency, malleability, and luminosity.

Many of the pieces on view (landscapes, street scenes, and maritimes) are products of an important plein air tradition, of painting out of doors in close visual relation to a subject, with a box or tin of watercolor pigments in hand. Others emerge from studio practice, and ply the medium in a more controlled environment to often experimental effect. However undertaken, the works included here demonstrate — in layers of wash, vivid coloring, staining, delicacy of dilution, subtle nuances and graceful gestures — the distinctive art of watercolor.

– Dr. Lisa Fischman, Chief Curator