Man has used pigments that are basically water based since he started to learn to color the images that he has created. The history of watercolor paintings dates so far back that dates and origins has lost its significance in its contextual value. One fact remains; it is the oldest coloring medium that man has made in his struggle for self-expression.
The popularity of watercolor remained to this day. It is the most widely used medium as far as users are concerned and it is the subject of so many studies, development, and enhancements. During the renaissance though, more popular mediums like oils and its derivatives eclipsed the use of watercolor in more exacting art renditions. This is so because watercolor mixes are less stable than its coloring counterparts are. Watercolor tends to fade very fast with time. To top this, pigments especially in the blue hues easily flakes and become powdery and cannot hold its color for very long. The brilliance that are the main beauty of watercolor painting pales easily when exposed to light over a period of time unlike oils and acrylics.
No matter the shortcomings, watercolor was experimented and in fact used by masters too many to mention here. For commercial viability though, watercolor fails and so oils and acrylics were preferred as it commands a higher price. Even in today's art auctions, seldom are watercolor prints sold except maybe when works of Wassily Kandisky, Pol Ledent, and their contemporaries are placed on the block and these are 20th century artists. Nonetheless, watercolor held its own. It did not become passé. It stayed in the background neither relegated to the forgotten category and neither very popular.
When book printing started on a grander scale, watercolor as a tool of illustration was the main, medium used. It is inexpensive, portable, light maintenance and the most practical. In the middle of the 18th century, watercolor use saw its initial revival, a rebirth people say. Its use became popular in the nobility and the bourgeois. Nonetheless, artists and illustrators late into this period still buy and mix their own pigments and the pigments come mostly in primary colors. This was the time that manufacturers and inventors started taking a second notice of its potential and market appeal.
Indeed watercolor pigments were developed. It still retained its basic pigments but a different binder, moist retainer, and plasticizer were included and modified. Today, watercolor has four levels of light fastness to choose from where it has very minimal durability to light compared to before. Paper was also developed. Were an ordinary white paper will suffice previously, there are now papers that are manufactured solely for watercolor purposes from the inexpensive watercolor specialty papers to the lint free papers of different grades. The quality is further enhanced when done on top quality archival paper. Today also, watercolor art can outlast oil and acrylic because of these recent technological developments adopted in its manufacture.
Until recent developments, the history of watercolor paintings has taken a long nap if you will. No matter, it is and remains a very wonderful medium to work on. Different challenges maybe but so are the rewards.
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