SAN MARINO, CA.- The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens present An Eye for Beauty - Collectors and the History of British Watercolor, through May 15, 2005. What role do collectors and connoisseurs play in shaping the public's understanding of an art form? An Eye for Beauty: Collectors and the History of British Watercolor examines precisely that question. This exhibition presents more than 100 watercolors by the greatest masters of the medium, including J.M.W. Turner, John Constable, John Robert Cozens, and Thomas Girtin, drawn from the collections of The Huntington and the Courtauld Institute Gallery in London. The exhibit also includes superb works by artists better known for their accomplishments in other media, such as oil painter David Wilkie, as well as paintings by important artists like John "Warwick" Smith and Francis Towne, who were relatively unknown until "discovered" by collectors. Many of these works have never before been exhibited in the United States.
An Eye for Beauty explores the history of British watercolor as it was defined by early 20th-century scholars such as Laurence Binyon (1869-1943) and Martin Hardie (1875-1952), from its beginnings in 16th-century portrait and topographical drawings through what has often been called its "golden age," the early 19th century, when emotive works by Romantic artists like Turner, Girtin, Peter De Wint, and David Cox defined the standard of excellence by which we still measure the art form today. These men were connoisseurs, individuals qualified to act as critical judges of art because of their understanding of its formal beauty, techniques and compositional principles. This exhibition looks at the history of British watercolor through the lens of their connoisseurship and judgments, which helped establish the canon of great British watercolor artists.