Flooded with Watercolors

Time Period
1925 to Today
Art & Architecture
A multicolored painting of takeout coffee cups

Coffee Break (2017) by Beverly Perdue was awarded “Best in Show” at the 38th Annual VWS Exhibition. 

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.  

An abstract watercolor in tones or orange and blue

Nags Headers (2017) by Eleanor Cox earned an “Award of Merit” at the 38th Annual VWS Exhibition.  

In the fall of 2020, the VMHC welcomed a new generation of watercolor artists whose work was on display as part of the 41st Annual Virginia Watercolor Society Exhibition.  

Founded 41 years ago by Roanoke artists John Will Creasy and Ernest Johnson, the VWS is a statewide organization that fosters interest and participation in watercolor painting. The society presents publications, demonstrations, and an annual jurored exhibition that provide opportunities for today’s artists to advance their skills.  

This exhibition was judged by one of the nation’s foremost watercolor artists, Frederick C. Graff, and as in previous years, featured an eclectic collection of more than 80 real and imagined landscapes, portraits, and still lifes—ranging from the hyper-real to the abstract. 

This exhibition introduced viewers to the versatility of watercolor painting, the strong emotions the medium can evoke, and the breadth of the subject matter that it encourages—all reflections of the experiences of Virginians in 2020.