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Northwest Watercolor Society Celebrates Sixty Years: A Retrospective Exhibition

Frye Art Museum, Seattle
July 8 - September 17


Polliwog Jar(1994),
watercolour on paper

The Northwest Watercolor Society was formed in 1939 by a few enthusiasts and has since evolved into an international organization with more than 800 members. In an exhibition of over 120 artworks, some dating back to the 1940s, which has been curated by Nancy Axell, this particular and exacting medium is revealed in all its vibrancy and for its seductively efficient devices of resolution. Like almost no other medium, the application of watercolour is dependent on techniques that demand planning, incisiveness, and confident colour mixing -- not to speak of deft drawing skills. In its transparent (as opposed to opaque) form, it cannot be fudged or erased: its permanence is as sure as a coffee stain on white linen. The inauguration of the Frye Art Museum's periodic watercolour exhibitions attests both to the public's esteem for the medium and the institution's commitment to dispel any idea that watercolour is less worthy than oil. With the emergence of the New York School in the 1940s and its proclivity for large scale, abstract gestural and colour field painting, watercolour began to play a less significant role in so-called "serious painting." However, the formation of the Northwest Watercolor Society in this same period attests to the belief that "medium" has nothing to do with "seriousness," and that the challenges of this vocation are every bit as earnest and consuming. The Frye Art Museum is admission-free Tuesdays through Sundays.

© Ted Lindberg