Richard McDougall British Watercolours

Inaugurated in May 2011, the Richard McDougall Lecture series is delivered biannually at The Courtauld Institute of Art on the topic of British watercolour painting post-1750.

9 December 2014: Ann Bermingham (Research Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara) - G.M.Woodwards Coffee-House Characters and Evolving Notions of British Humour

George M. Woodward, “The Private Declaimer”, Coffee-House Characters, or Hints to the Readers of Newspapers Exemplified in Eight Characteristic Designs with Letter Press Elucidations to Each Plate, ca. 1808, pencil, ink and watercolour. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Preserved in the Yale Center for British Art is a small 34-page autograph book titled Coffee-House Characters, or Hints to the Readers of Newspapers Exemplified in Eight Characteristic Designs with Letter Press Elucidations to Each Plate by the amateur cartoonist George M. Woodward. The nine watercolour drawings accompanying the text depict patrons of coffee-houses circa 1808. As is typical of Woodward’s work, the satire directs its barbs away from the sharp and moralizing course so often associated with Hogarth, and visual satire of the eighteenth-century, and toward something gentler and more indulgent. This talk will explore Woodward’s Coffee-House Characters in relation to social change and evolving notions of British humour.

Ann Bermingham is a specialist in British art of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries and a research professor in the history of art at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the author of Landscape and Ideology, The English Rustic Tradition, 1740-1860 and Learning to Draw: Studies in the Cultural History of a Polite and Useful Art; the editor of Sensation and Sensibility: Viewing Gainsborough’s ‘Cottage Door’ and, with John Brewer, The Consumption of Culture: Image, Object, Text, 1600-1800.

24 April 2014: A Dialogue with Nature - Romantic Landscapes from Britain and Germany

Joseph Mallord William Turner, On Lake Lucerne looking towards Fluelen, c. 1841 Graphite and watercolour (with scratching out) on paper. 22.3 cm x 28.3 cm Acquisition: Scharf, Dorothy (Miss); bequest; 2007 (March). D.2007.DS.47 Copyright: © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

A Dialogue with Nature: Romantic Landscapes from Britain and Germany, the first display organised jointly by The Courtauld Gallery and The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, brings together 28 major drawings and watercolours from both collections. The display represents a rare occasion on which to view works by British and German Romantic artists in conversation with each other and to consider points of commonality as well as divergence between two distinctive schools.

An informal workshop in the exhibition space and the Print Room to examine and discuss the drawings and watercolours in the display and in The Courtauld’s collection, by artists including J. M. W. Turner, Samuel Palmer, Thomas Girtin, John Robert Cozens, Caspar David Friedrich and Carl Philipp Fohr. Speakers include Hugh Belsey (independent scholar), David Blayney Brown (Tate Britain), Timothy Wilcox (independent scholar) and Colin Harrison (Ashmolean Museum).

10 December 2013: Dr Morna O'Neill (Wake Forest University) - Walter Crane and the Arts and Crafts Watercolour

Walter Crane, Pandora, 1885, watercolour, private collection. Image: Courtesy of Morna O’Neill

In a critique of the Royal Academy published in 1885, the artist and designer Walter Crane described watercolour, “that peculiarly English and home grown art”, as a neglected medium. Yet the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, formed in 1887 in the wake of Crane’s remarks, did not address this concern. This lecture will consider the marginal position of watercolour painting in histories of the Arts and Crafts movement and examine the vital place it occupied in Crane’s own art. As Morna O’Neill will discuss, a consideration of artistic craft and “truth to materials” makes watercolour painting something of an Arts and Crafts paradox: it is central to the movement but incidental to its objects.

Morna O’Neill (University of Notre Dame, B.A.; Yale, Ph.D.) teaches courses in eighteenth and nineteenth-century European art and the history of photography at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Her research addresses the conjunction of art, design, and politics at the end of the nineteenth century. She was curator of the exhibition ‘Art and Labour’s Cause is One’: Walter Crane and Manchester, 1880-1915 (Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester, August 2008-June 2009) and author of the exhibition catalogue (Whitworth Art Gallery, 2008). Walter Crane is also the subject of her book from Yale University Press, Walter Crane: The Arts and Crafts, Painting, and Politics, 1875-1890. Other research projects include the display of decorative arts at international exhibitions (1889-1911) and the work of the art dealer Hugh Lane (1875-1915).  She is the co-editor, with Michael Hatt (University of Warwick), of The Edwardian Sense: Art, Design, and Performance in Britain, 1901-1910 (Yale University Press, 2010). Professor O’Neill has received fellowships from the Frick Collection and Art Reference Library, the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, the Huntington Library, The Getty Research Institute, and the National Humanities Center.


30 April 2013: Costume in Watercolour, c. 1760-1945

Conder, Charles, Les Incroyables, late 1890s. Watercolour and gouache with graphite on silk height: 26.2 cm; width: 41.4 cm. Acquisition: Spooner, William (Mr and Mrs); bequest; 1967, D.1967.WS.133. Copyright: © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

Costume has played many roles in watercolour since the eighteenth century: as a marker of social class and status, as a record of contemporary fashion, as a locus for fantasy and the imagination. The medium of watercolour has presented artists with complex and fascinating challenges in attempting to represent costume, particularly in capturing the effects of different surfaces and textures.

An informal workshop to examine and discuss a group of watercolours in The Courtauld’s collection by artists including Henry Fuseli, John Brown, David Wilkie and Charles Conder that evokes the evolving role of costume in watercolour from the mid-eighteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries.

11 December 2012: Dr Colin Cruise (Research Lecturer, School of Art, Aberystwyth University) - Breaking with Tradition: Experimental Watercolour Painting in Mid-nineteenth-century Britain

Simeon Solomon (1840-1905), Dawn, 1871. Courtesy: Birmingham Museums







In the 1850s, the ‘pure watercolour’ that had emerged in England in the eighteenth century was challenged in a new handling of the medium. Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his younger followers rejected the ‘pure’ wash technique advocated by the celebrated watercolourists of an earlier generation.  Instead, they experimented with the rich pigments of watercolour to produce works with opaque rather than stained or transparent surfaces. In addition, these new watercolours had complex, poetic subjects, illustrative of sexual passion and desire.

This talk will trace the history of these significant changes in the techniques, status and function of watercolour painting and consider the collection, exhibition and critical reception of works by Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Simeon Solomon and Elizabeth Siddal, among others.

Colin Cruise is Research Lecturer at the School of Art, Aberystwyth University. He curated the exhibition The Poetry of Drawing; Pre-Raphaelite Drawings, Designs and Watercolours for Birmingham Art Gallery and AGNSW, Sydney in 2010-11. His recent publications include the book Pre-Raphaelite Drawing (Thames and Hudson, 2010) and a chapter in The Cambridge Companion to the Pre-Raphaelites (2012).

1 May 2012: Visions of Wales: Watercolours by English Artists, c. 1775 - 1850

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Chepstow Castle (recto), circa 1793.
Graphite, watercolour (blue, grey and brown), pen and brush and ink on paper.
height: 20.9 cm; width: 29.9 cm
Acquisition: Courtauld, Stephen, Sir (in memory of); gift; 1974 D.1974.STC.1
Copyright: © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London


One of the essential stops on an English watercolourist’s itinerary from the later eighteenth century, Wales provided a rich source of inspiration to generations of artists. First ‘discovered’ by antiquarians earlier in the century, the natural beauty and historical importance of its landscapes and architecture exerted a powerful attraction for English artists – but their Welsh watercolours were seldom straightforward representations of famous sites.

An informal workshop to examine and discuss a group of watercolours in The Courtauld’s collection by artists including J M W Turner, Francis Towne, James Ward and Francis Danby, drawing out the political, historical and aesthetic complexities of these visions of Wales.

11 May 2011: Stephen Wildman (Professor of the History of Art and Director, Ruskin Library and Research Centre, Lancaster University) - Coming of Age: John Ruskin's Drawings and Watercolours from the Grand Tour of 1840-41

John Ruskin, Bay of Naples, 1841.Watercolour, gouache (white), graphite on paper. height: 35 cm ; width: 47.2 cm Acquisition: The Courtauld, Jeanne (Miss); bequest; 2005 D.2005.XX.10 Copyright: © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London


 Stephen Wildman (Professor of the History of Art and Director, Ruskin Library and Research Centre, Lancaster University) – Coming of Age: John Ruskin’s Drawings and Watercolours from the Grand Tour of 1840-41

Ruskin’s early drawings and watercolours have been the subject of very little detailed study. In this lecture, Stephen Wildman will share the fruits of investigating the Grand Tour to France and Italy made by Ruskin, then aged 21, with his parents between September 1840 and June 1841. By his own account he made “47 large size sketches and 34 small”, many of which it is possible to identify; of surviving drawings, the largest number is in the Ruskin Library, with others as far afield as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Ruskin Library in Tokyo. A neglected body of work, it was influenced by the work of Samuel Prout and David Roberts, but also represents the maturity of Ruskin as a draughtsman.