There's a Free Online Archive of Pre-1900 Watercolors From Around the World

William Simpson, Private Collection
William Simpson, Private Collection

Watercolor paintings have long been a disparaged art medium. At one time, they were viewed as being less worthy than fine art, or were dismissed as a “ladies’ medium” because they often dealt with flowers and pretty landscapes, which were considered trivial subjects.

A new digital archive of watercolor images from the 1400s through the 1800s is now painting a different picture of the art form’s impact. Creating watercolors wasn’t just a hobby for housewives; it was a way for scientists, architects, and explorers to document the world around them.

Run by a UK-based charity, The Watercolour World website culls these historic artifacts from both private and public collections, then uploads them for all to see. Users can browse the selection or narrow their search field by collection, category, country, artist, or date range.

The website boasts more than 80,000 images of “documentary watercolors” made before the year 1900. These depictions of people, animals, architecture, and landscapes from around the world were meant to capture moments at a time when portable cameras hadn’t been invented yet. A Maori girl from New Zealand, Tibetan weavers, Egyptian tombs, and 16th-century images of Native Americans are among the many subjects featured. There are also plenty of flora and fauna, drawn up by artists and scientists alike.

"Watercolours are a priceless record of the world before photography," Javad Marandi, chairman of The Watercolour World’s advisory board, said in a press statement. “Many of them would be of great interest to historians, scientists, and members of the general public, but are hidden from view and at risk of disappearing.”

Here are just a few of the stunning images on view online.

Painting of a toucan eating a smaller bird
Maria Sibylla Merian, Trustees of the British Museum

A painting of frogs
Maria Sibylla Merian, Minneapolis Institute of Art

A painting of the old and new London Bridges
Gideon Yates, Bishopsgate Institute

A painting of Dover Castle
Thomas Girtin, Yale Center for British Art

Painting of the Royal Academy in 1858
William Payne, Yale Center for British Art

Bring Some Magic Into Your Home With These Harry Potter Fine Art Photographs

Classic Stills
Classic Stills

Even if you've seen the Harry Potter movies a thousand times, they invariably come to an end after 160 or so minutes, forcing you to leave Hogwarts and return to the real world. But do you really have to choose one or the other? As Forbes reports, you can now bring a bit of magic into your home with fine art photographs of classic scenes from the Harry Potter franchise.

These limited edition, framed photos are the result of a partnership between Los Angeles-based Classic Stills and Warner Bros. Consumer Products. The first collection features 25 photos from the franchise's first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and future collections will follow the movies in chronological order.

The photos are unique in that they capture the essence of the characters. In one print, titled "Hermione Has the Answer," Emma Watson's character can be seen practically overextending her arm in an attempt to get the professor's attention in class. Ron's bravery shines through as he rides atop a chess piece in another image, and a young Harry Potter in oversized hand-me-downs looks around at his new surroundings during his first trip to Diagon Alley in yet another piece in the collection.

Harry in Diagon Alley
Classic Stills

Priced between $149 and $495, the prints aren't exactly cheap. However, they are less expensive than a comparable print would cost at an art gallery, according to Classic Stills founder/CEO Rene Freling. The price point can be attributed to both the quality of the photographs and their exclusivity; only 100 copies of each photo are made, and the prints are framed by hand and individually numbered.

"We can't expect fans of any movie to pay for a premium-quality product unless the product itself is exceptional—and that includes the photography," Freling told Forbes. He says the photos are printed onto light-sensitive paper through a chromogenic process, which combines "old-school photography development and modern processes."

Classic Stills also offers collections of photos from other movie and TV franchises, including Game of Thrones, Doctor Who, The Big Lebowski, and Jurassic Park. Check out some photos below from the Harry Potter collection, and visit the Classic Stills website to see more options.

Hagrid
Classic Stills

Hermione raises her hand
Classic Stills

Ron on a chess piece
Classic Stills

[h/t Forbes]

10 Facts About Ansel Adams

Famed photographer Ansel Adams drained the color from life to great effect. His black-and-white photographs of famous landscapes like Yosemite National Park have been seen by millions, reproduced on calendars and posters, and recognized by presidents as being crucial to conservation efforts. If you’re curious to learn more about Adams (who was born on this day in 1902), take a look at some of these lesser-known facts about both his life and his life’s work.

1. An earthquake broke his nose.

Born in San Francisco to Charles and Olive Adams on February 20, 1902, Ansel was just 4 years old when San Francisco was struck by the great earthquake of 1906. During an aftershock, he lost his balance and fell face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. The damage was so severe that it would become a remarkable feature of Ansel’s face. Between his nose—which caused him a lot of problems socially—and a disdain for the formalized education he was receiving, Adams eventually elected to be tutored at home by his father and aunt before he got a “legitimizing diploma” and graduated with an approximately eighth grade education.

2. He originally wanted to be a concert pianist.

Adams was a solitary kid, studying at home and wandering trails by himself. He began practicing the piano at the age of 12, and by 18, he decided he would make it a profession and began a path to becoming a concert pianist. Throughout the 1920s, however, Adams’s frequent visits to the Sierra Nevada region stirred an interest in photography. After contributing images to the Sierra Club newsletter and opening a one-man exhibition in 1928, he decided, in 1930, to make photography his full-time career.

3. A granite summit made him famous.

As he became more interested in photographic pursuits, Adams got assistance from Albert Bender, an art patron in San Francisco who told Adams that he would help him circulate a portfolio of his work. One of the last images needed to complete the sampler was of the Half Dome, a sheer granite summit in Yosemite that extends 5000 feet above the valley. In April 1927, Adams climbed to a rock cliff known as the Diving Board and managed to get the shot he wanted. The image, Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, became one of his best-known works.

4. His work appeared on a coffee can.

Adams often agreed to commercial work in order to subsidize his more creative pursuits, trying to strike a balance between paying bills and garnering satisfaction from his environmental awareness ambitions. In 1969, the Hill Brothers Coffee Company licensed Winter Morning, Yosemite Valley for their 3-pound coffee tins. The containers can bring up to $1500 when they come up for auction.

5. He didn't shy away from critiques of World War II.

Portrait of internee Tom Kobayashi at Manzanar War Relocation Center, Owens Valley, California, 1943
Portrait of internee Tom Kobayashi at Manzanar War Relocation Center, Owens Valley, California, 1943

Though Adams is best known for his nature photography, the outbreak of World War II drew his eye to an entirely different topic. He photographed the interment camp at Manzanar, one of many such sites that detained Japanese-Americans, depicting their prejudiced treatment at the hands of the U.S. government while being forced to exist in war relocation centers. Adams donated the collection, which included more than 200 photographs, to the Library of Congress in 1965, writing that “The purpose of my work was to show how these people, suffering under a great injustice, and loss of property, businesses and professions, had overcome the sense of defeat and dispair [sic] by building for themselves a vital community in an arid (but magnificent) environment ... All in all, I think this Manzanar Collection is an important historical document, and I trust it can be put to good use.”

6. He was presented with the Medal of Freedom.

Collectively, Adams’s art was a giant portrait of conservation efforts intended to reveal the beauty of national landmarks and the value in preserving them for future generations. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor awarded to civilians, to acknowledge his efforts on behalf of environmental causes. Carter dubbed Adams a “national institution.”

7. HE "mutilated" some of his own negatives.

In order to stir up interest for his Portfolio VI book collection in 1974, Adams purposely limited the number of copies available by advertising that no more reproductions could ever be struck from the original negatives—he had run them across a check canceling device, destroying them. Adams later regretted the decision, writing in his autobiography that “negatives should never be intentionally destroyed.”

8. He had problems with a couple of presidents.

Adams’s political views on environmental conservation were embedded in the fabric of his identity. When politicians didn’t agree, he had no problem butting heads. Adams refused to take a presidential portrait of Richard Nixon due to Nixon's reluctance to support public lands. After meeting Ronald Reagan in 1983, Adams expressed disinterest in any further communication, telling The Washington Post that the president had no “fundamental interest or knowledge in the environment.” An earlier exchange with Playboy was more cutting: “I hate Reagan,” Adams said.

9. He didn't see any financial rewards until late in life.

“Professional nature photographer” was not considered a lucrative vocation when Adams was devoted to his craft. It wasn’t until the 1970s, when an associate advised him to stop selling prints and focus on his book collections, that Adams became financially solvent.

10. He had too many photos to print.

When Adams died in 1984, curators of his extensive 40,000-plus photo archives marveled at the fact that the photographer never found time to print many images they considered to be masterpieces. Thousands of portraits and color photos were tucked in shoeboxes, with some later appearing in collections of his work. Adams, a perfectionist, insisted on developing and exposing prints himself. He had taken so many photos that there simply had not been enough hours in the day to process them all.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER