Watercolour World: A free database of pre-1900 watercolours


Many of us are guilty of not finding enough time to visit art galleries and exhibitions.

However, the past year, in particular, has demonstrated to us how important these spaces are.

Art is an integral part of our society; it allows us to learn, grow and experience a sense of our shared history.

Because we have been unable to access these key spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have turned to digital spaces, searching for new ways to enjoy the arts.

Thankfully, organisations such as Watercolour World have emerged in recent years to create a free online watercolour art database that is open to the public.

Now, more than ever, we are beginning to see the importance of having access to such a wealth of material online.

Over the past decade, the world has seen a distinct shift towards online spaces, and as we move into an increasingly digital world, it makes sense that we as a society move with it.

If we are to ensure that integral parts of our culture and history are not left behind and forgotten, they too must be digitised.

Watercolour works are some of the most beautiful, but fragile, art pieces – particularly those from the pre-20th-century era.

For that reason, Watercolour World has made it its mission to preserve and protect collections of work by moving them into the digital age.

Art collectors, museums, and galleries across the globe are fighting to save key watercolour pieces by keeping them in a controlled environment that is often away from the public eye.

However, this leaves the question, who are these watercolour works being saved for if they are inaccessible?

Watercolour World, as an organisation, has dedicated itself to creating a free online database that currently contains more than 80,000 pre-1900 watercolours. Its team travels the globe to scan and archive works from public and private collections to immortalise them in the digital space. That work ensures even the most coveted watercolour artworks are accessible for people from all walks of life for generations to come.

The database is created with the help of Fujitsu’s PFU ScanSnap SV600 portable scanner, which allows the organisation to scan even the most fragile watercolours safely.

The beauty of this method is that LED technology is used to create a crystal clear scan of the watercolour without coming into contact with it.

The LED light also does not emit any harmful UV light, or heat rays, that could damage the original copy. Even some of the most delicate pieces that cannot be removed from their frames can be captured through the glass using this technique.

The digitised watercolours can then be added to an ever-growing database housed on the Watercolour World website.

Its online hub contains a diverse collection of thousands of insightful and highly detailed watercolours from around the world that the public can enjoy for free.

With a simple click, viewers can explore the world before photography using their three different search sections; location search, keyword search and featured section.

The archive also contains a world map page that lets you browse images according to the places they depict.

So, from the comfort of your home, you can explore the world through the unique lens of watercolours, seeing life from the perspective of thousands of artists.

As we move into a new and exciting digital era, so too must art.

With the help of Watercolour World, some of the most delicate and educational pieces can now be preserved on this journey.

This unique online collection grows each year, expanding our knowledge of the pre-1900 world by compiling an array of public and private collections from across the globe.

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