Watercolor has the power to transport us through its luminous colors, its dappled brilliance of light, its cheerfulness, and its storied past. Take a journey with us as we dive into a world of dazzling color and captivating stories in An American Journey: Watercolor Achievements from the CMA Collection. Throughout time, artists have used watercolor to express themselves through the medium’s spontaneity and ability to capture the visually stunning effects of light and color. Many of the greatest achievements in the history of American art have been realized through the medium of watercolor, due to artists’ ability to use the medium to quickly render what they see around them. By the turn of the century, the popularity of watercolor painting as well as its versatility and directness led many critics to proclaim watercolor the “American Medium.” Additionally, due to its accessibility as a medium, watercolor was popular among women, such as Alice Schille, Claude Hirst, and Jane Peterson, who excelled as some of the most well-known and accomplished watercolor painters.
Watercolor painting has been part of the artistic tradition within Ohio for centuries. The arrival of watercolor as a major genre in American art can be traced to the founding of the American Society of Painters in Water Colors in 1866. Watercolor had long been popular in the United States, but it was largely considered a medium best suited to amateur artists. The Society’s first exhibition in 1867 drastically altered this trajectory, and America’s leading artists increasingly viewed watercolor as a serious creative and commercial pursuit. In the 1920s, Cleveland surpassed Boston as the country's leading center in watercolor painting. The medium achieved popularity in Ohio due to the close-knit character of the artistic community, and soon, Ohio became a state filled with booming artistic colonies which produced thousands of paintings and cultivated generations of notorious painters.
Over the last several decades, the Canton Museum of Art has built a thorough and extensive collection of works by some of the most celebrated watercolor artists in hopes of sharing this rich history with the community. Comprised of works from the Permanent Collection that trace the dynamic history of watercolor painting since the nineteenth century, An American Journey will highlight major American artists, including those from Ohio, who took the watercolor medium by storm and produced some of the finest works seen in the medium. You will see examples including Winslow Homer, who was significant in the revitalization of watercolor in America, John Singer Sargent, Oscar Bluemner, Charles Burchfield, Andrew Wyeth, and Edward Hopper, among others.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website
Image credit: Children Playing at the Beach, c.1915-20, Edward Potthast; Watercolor and gouache on paper mounted on board. Canton Museum of Art