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American Watercolors, 1880–1990: Into the Light

Image of a book cover featuring abstracted strokes of watercolor in shades of blue, green, yellow, red, pink, and grey, sparsely layered over a white background. The cover includes white text listing the book’s title, “American Watercolors, 1880–1990: Into the Light”.

$ 45.00

A celebration of the diverse world of American watercolors from the late 19th through the 20th century, featuring works from the Harvard Art Museums’ collections.

Edited by Joachim Homann, Margaret Morgan Grasselli, and Miriam Stewart

Publication date: May 16, 2023

ISBN: 9780300269703
184 pages, 9.5 × 11 in.
154 color images

Published by Harvard Art Museums
Distributed by Yale University Press

Watch a trailer for this book on YouTube!

Watercolor holds a special place in the history of American art. For generations of artists, the medium has provided a space for innovation and experimentation, allowing practitioners to let their imagination loose and to reflect on process and perception. Its rise to the status of fine art in the decades following the Civil War is well documented, yet its continued role as a testing ground and means of generating new ideas throughout the 20th century has received comparatively less attention.

This volume considers continuity and change in the American watercolor tradition over a century of production through the lens of the Harvard Art Museums’ collections. Works by well-known watercolorists such as Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler are included, as well as surprising additions from Zelda Fitzgerald, Alexander Calder, Claes Oldenburg, and many others. In the spirit of the medium, the authors take a fluid and open-ended approach to the topic, offering both personal and scholarly reflections that invite readers to ponder the influence of these works on their own experience of the world. In addition to contextual essays, there are close readings of singular works and examinations of the unique material characteristics of the watercolor medium.

Joachim Homann is the Maida and George Abrams Curator of Drawings, Margaret Morgan Grasselli is visiting senior scholar for drawings, and Miriam Stewart is curator of the collection for the Division of European and American Art, all at the Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA.

With contributions by Horace D. Ballard, Elisa Germán, Penley Knipe, and artist Richard Tuttle.

The exhibition American Watercolors, 1880–1990: Into the Light is on view at the Harvard Art Museums from May 20 through August 13, 2023.

Support for this exhibition is provided by the Alexander S., Robert L., and Bruce A. Beal Exhibition Fund, the William Amory Fund, the Rabb Family Exhibitions Fund, and an anonymous donor. Related programming is supported by the M. Victor Leventritt Lecture Series Endowment Fund. This catalogue was made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Publication Funds and the Wyeth Foundation for American Art.

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