Freed in 1870 from the constraints of the narrow-minded and disapproving Society of Painters in Water-Colours, Burne-Jones was able to push his already unconventional watercolour technique to further extremes over the next 28 years. His growing success from the 1870s onwards, nurtured by the strong support and generosity of a number of devoted patrons, encouraged him to create decorative works of increasing complexity and size, designed to satisfy his desire for “big things” and “vast spaces”. The Art Journal branded his watercolours “opaque with a vengeance…in substance and surface [they] might almost be mistaken for oil.” Drawing on details from colourman’s ledgers, correspondence and other contemporary records, this talk will take a new look at the artist’s radical but painstaking watercolour practice and the variety of materials he used in his later works.
Fiona Mann is an independent art historian, specialising in English nineteenth-century painting materials and techniques. Her PhD thesis highlighted the impact of newly developed art materials on the progressive painting methods of watercolour artists in England 1850-1880. Publications include: ‘Rossetti’s Watercolours: Materials and Technique’ (Review of the Pre-Raphaelite Society, 2005); ‘A “born rebel”’: Edward Burne-Jones and Watercolour Painting 1857-1880’, Burlington Magazine (October 2014); and ‘”Shilling vade-mecums”: Watercolour Manuals and the Advancement of Watercolour in England 1850-1880’, Archetype Publications 2017 (forthcoming). She is currently researching Burne-Jones’s oil painting materials and techniques, for which she has received a Paul Mellon Research grant.