If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the recently launched Watercolour World database should be worth around 80 million. Working to preserve the time-honored art form of watercolor paintings, Watercolour World has digitized more than 80,000 pieces of art, which are freely viewable from their easy-to-navigate website.
Prior to the 19th century, which saw the development of photography, our primary sources of visual documentation of the world come from watercolor paintings. Over the centuries painters, both amateur and professional, utilized water colors to depict landscapes, flora and fauna, and even societal events. Now, it is easier than ever to compare the records of the past with the present thanks to the Watercolour World project, which was backed by Charles, the Prince of Wales, and Camilla Parker Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall.
The website brings together thousands of paintings, some of which are said to be too fragile to access the physical copies, from private and public collections. The database’s mission is to preserve these images and help them to find new meaning in the modern world. Simply search for a key word, date, or region of the world and be treated to a view of the past from the eyes of an artist.
Another feature Watercolour World offers is a set of images showing locations around the world before they were impacted by climate change, which cast light on coastline erosion and some striking images of glaciers that have since melted.
Fred Hohler, founder of the project, said it would “offer an extraordinary journey into the world in earlier times, to counter our predecessors, and to observe how they lived, loved and played.”
Watercolour World is asking the public to share with them any interesting pre-1900 watercolor paintings for them to add to their collection. If you have one you’d like to preserve for posterity, you can contact them here.