June 29, 2011

J. Paul Getty Museum Presents British Watercolors and Drawings from Its Newly Expanded Collection

Media Contact(s):

Alexandria Sivak
(310) 440-6473
Getty Communications

Exhibition brings together more than 25 key works, including several new acquisitions on view for the first time



Luminous Paper: British Watercolors and Drawings

At the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center
July 19–October 23, 2011

LOS ANGELES—Watercolor is one of the most challenging artistic techniques—capable of extraordinary luminosity but often resistant to control. Luminous Paper: British Watercolors and Drawings, on view July 19–October 23, 2011 at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, presents more than 25 works of the 1700s and 1800s by some of the greatest masters of the medium, many on view for the first time.

Featuring the work of some of the most famous British artists, including J.M.W. Turner, William Blake, and Samuel Palmer, this exhibition reveals their multifaceted innovations in the field of drawing and watercolor painting. From Turner’s use of his thumbprint to roughen the texture of wash in a whirling seascape, to the reflected and re-reflected light built in layers by John Sell Cotman, the medium of watercolor was transformed beyond recognition. Other artists experimented with novel subject matter or new modes of representation, playing important roles in the development of European drawing and watercolor painting.

"Key works have been added to the Getty’s collection in the last few years as part of an ongoing initiative to build our holdings of British drawings and watercolors to better represent the wider European tradition," said Associate Curator Julian Brooks, who curated the exhibition. "Many of these works have been recently acquired and we’re thrilled to be publicly displaying them for the first time in generations."

Among the recent acquisitions is Durham Cathedral and Castle(about 1800) by Thomas Girtin, a dramatic view of a medieval cathedral and castle set on a rocky outcrop above the water, amid the moving light of a bright, cloudy sky. Girtin died of tuberculosis at the age of 27, two years after making this drawing. His rival J.M.W. Turner is reputed to have said "Had poor Tom lived, I would have starved."

Another is View of the Church of Our Lady of Hanswijk, Mechelen (1831) by Thomas Shotter Boys, a central figure in Anglo-French artistic exchange of the period, and one of the most sophisticated practitioners of watercolor. He excelled in capturing effects of atmosphere and mood.

In the early 1700s watercolor painting was seen as an amateur pastime unworthy of true painters, but toward the end of the century British artists started to make watercolors designed to compete directly with oil paintings. They were bigger, with strong colors and dramatic compositions. The "exhibition watercolor" attracted new audiences of collectors and produced some of the most technically complex and powerful works in the medium.

To gather motifs and material for their exhibited works, British artists of the 1700s and 1800s often made sketching trips. Equipped with sketchbooks and portable boxes containing dry cakes of watercolor pigment and, later, moist versions and tubes, artists could easily capture the elements and effects of nature in color. Luminous Paper: British Watercolors and Drawings includes a sketchbook filled on a tour of northern England and Scotland by artist William Bell Scott and a paint box of the era, in addition to other books and letters from the collection of the Getty Research Institute.

Complementing Luminous Paper: British Watercolors and Drawings is a loan installation of three contemporary watercolors by British artist David Hockney, bringing the tradition of the exhibition watercolor into the present day. His colorful and personal landscapes of the Yorkshire countryside of his youth show his ceaseless experimentation with artistic technique and demonstrate that watercolor as a medium is alive and well in the 21st century.

A rich array of related events complements the exhibition, including talks by curator Julian Brooks, watercolor workshops and artist-at-work demonstrations, and Dark Blushing, an evening of poetry, music and art presented at the Getty in collaboration with the Write Now Poetry Society.


All events are free, unless otherwise noted. Seating reservations are required. For reservations and information, please call (310) 440-7300 or visit


Stories Stranger than Fiction, Pictures Larger than Life

Julian Brooks, associate curator of Drawings, the J. Paul Getty Museum, investigates some of the stories and characters behind British watercolor in the 1800s. Brooks focuses on artists who pushed the boundaries of watercolor and drawing, including J. M. W. Turner, Thomas Girtin, Edward Lear, D. G. Rossetti, and Aubrey Beardsley.

Sunday, July 31, 3:00 p.m.
Museum Lecture Hall, Getty Center


Watercolor Workshop

Join artist Richard Houston in this daylong workshop exploring the techniques and traditions of watercolor. Working in the studio and from the Getty’s landscape, students explore watercolor materials, paint application, color mixing, light effects, and composition through a series of discussions and exercises. Course fee $130 (includes materials). Open to 25 participants.

Wednesday, September 14, 10:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Repeats October 5.
Museum Studios, Getty Center


Experiencing the Getty Collection: The Union of Art and Science

This three-part gallery course investigates scientific principles at work in artistic practices from the Renaissance to the contemporary. Join educator William Zaluski and a special guest educator for each session to examine, reflect on, and discuss works of art. Course fee $15 per session. Course fee $15 per session. Open to 35 participants.

Part 1: September 10, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: New Materials and Techniques in Painting

Part 2: October 15, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: From Molten to Mass and Beyond

Part 3: November 19, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Instruments of Seeing

GRI Lecture Hall and Museum galleries, Getty Center


Curator’s Gallery Talks

Julian Brooks, associate curator, Department of Drawings, the J. Paul Getty Museum, leads a gallery talk on the exhibition. Meet under the stairs in the Museum Entrance Hall.

Thursday, August 11, 1:30 p.m.
Wednesday, September 21, 1:30 p.m.


Artist-at-Work Demonstration: Watercolor

Drop by as artist Richard Houston demonstrates the materials and techniques used in watercolor painting with an emphasis on motifs and innovations developed by British artists in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Sundays, September 4-September 25, 1:003:00 p.m.
Museum Studios, Getty Center


Saturday Nights at the Getty: Dark Blushing

Presented in collaboration with the Write Now Poetry Society, Dark Blushing is an evening of poetry, music, and art. Some of the brightest stars in contemporary poetry present new work inspired by the exhibition Luminous Paper: British Watercolors and Drawings. Their performances are interwoven with celebrity readings of the 18th- and 19th- century greats and lush live music. Free, reservations required. Reservations available beginning Tuesday, August 23, 2011.

Saturday, September 10, 7:30 p.m.
Harold M. Williams Auditorium, Getty Center


Publications are available in the Getty Museum Store, by calling (310) 440-7059, or online at

Looking at Prints, Drawings, and Watercolours: A Guide to Technical Terms
Revised Edition
Paul Goldman

This illustrated reference guide concisely explains over one hundred terms related to the processes and materials utilized in creating prints, drawings, and watercolours. (Paperback, $18.95)

Master Drawings Close-Up
Julian Brooks

The techniques of master draftsmen are explored through enlarged details of their most spectacular drawings. (Paperback, $24.95)

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Julie Jaskol
Getty Communications
(310) 440-7607

About the Getty:

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that includes the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

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