Watercolors are a highly versatile medium, unique in its form with color pigments suspended in a water-based solution. These paintings—which can have rich, vivid tones and soft, soothing forms—can be applied to everything from paper to canvas, stone, wood, and fabrics. What makes watercolor painting challenging is its unforgiving nature. Lines, colors, and forms must be applied perfectly, as any attempt to paint over them simply renders the entire effect muddied.
You can find many fine examples of watercolor paintings rendered on paper, manuscripts, maps, and miniatures in the collection of the VMHC. These watercolors include a familiar portrait of a young Thomas Jefferson attributed to John Trumbull and based on his masterpiece, Declaration of Independence; Richmond landscapes by English artist Lafevre Cranstone, who captured both the beauty and activity of the capitol city around 1860; hundreds of detailed maps and scenes recording the wartime experiences of Union private Robert Knox Sneden; and charming studies captured on paper by artist and founder of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia, Adèle Clark, who regularly set-up easels on Richmond’s street corners as a vehicle to engage those passing by about the suffragist cause.