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How Long Have Watercolors Been Used By Mankind?

While watercolor landscape artwork came to prominence with English watercolorist JMW Turner in the 1700s, there are hints that watercolors have been used since the dawn of humanity.

35,000 Years?!

There are cave paintings in Europe that date back as far as 33,000BC in the Cro-Magnon era! As such, watercolor is one of the most ancient art forms used by Mankind.

Though for a good bulk of its history, watercolors were used as a simple means of getting color onto wall, the Mediterranean Minoans (1,500BC) and Romans discovered that a mix of pigments and water could be painted onto wet plaster in what we know as ‘fresco’ paintings.

The Renaissance in Italy perhaps took this wet pigment on plaster technique to its greatest beauty with their frescos such as the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo.

Watercolors of Today - From Walls to Paper

Overlapping the great fresco artworks was the move to take advantage of watercolor luminosity on paper. German artist and printmaker Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) was one of the first famous artists to have taken the technique to paper paintings.

It wasn’t until the 1700s that the watercolor paintings we know today became famous with the English Royal Academy’s JMW Turner using the technique for paintings that now sell for tens of millions of dollars in auctions.

Different Medium - Different Ingredients

While Michelangelo used a technique where the pigments bonded with the lime in the plaster, modern paper watercolors are made up of four principle parts. The pigment is the color and is mixed with a binder like gum arabic. The third element is a preservative to maintain the shelf life of the paint and the fourth element is added by the user - the water!  Watercolor paints are generally nontoxic and washable, which are two great features for art supplies that are used so much by children.

Get Your Watercolors from Color Swell 

Whether you wish to be held in such awe as Turner or Michelangelo or just want to have fun with paints, you can buy bulk watercolor art supplies from us here at Color Swell.