Nineteenth century European watercolors form a less clearly defined and consistently documented chapter in the watercolor tradition. Watercolors were not taught in the traditional academic curriculum, which meant artists had to learn the technique from a practicing artist. Because the medium was perceived as an "English novelty" for several decades, many of these artists either learned the techniques from English painters, or taught themselves how to paint.

We pick up the story around 1830, when several important Continental watercolorists and traveling topographical artists were strongly influenced by the tremendously popular watercolors of Richard Parkes Bonington. But Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), who was Bonington's traveling companion and roommate in Paris in the second half of 1825, may have influenced Bonington as well. The son of a Marseilles diplomat (or, some say, the Parisian diplomat Tallyrand), Delacroix was orphaned at age 16 by the death of his mother. He received most of his art training in the studio of Pierre Guèrin (1774-1833) and copying paintings in the Louvre, where he met and befriended Bonington. His paintings were first accepted in the Paris Salon of 1822, and he quickly became one of the leading Romantic painters in images of war and revolution abroad and at home. In 1832 he spent six months in Morocco, and painted many images thereafter. He received many commissions to decorate state buildings, including the Apollo Gallery in the Louvre (1850-51) and The Favorite (1821, 19x14cm) is one of many "costume" watercolors that Delacroix painted of North African subjects. The broad areas of red, yellow, blue and gray are combined as muted, more intricate patterns within the woman's dress, displaying on a small scale Delacroix's strategy of integrating an entire painting through the disciplined use of color. The carpeting also suggests Delacroix's style of juxtaposing pure flecks of contrasting or complementary color, a technique that can be traced back to the French painter Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) and that helped to form the mature "divisionist" style of Georges Seurat and Paul Signac.

French watercoloring tended to propagate through individual talents, such as the society painter Eugène-Louis Lami (1800-1890) and the minor Bonington imitator Eugène Isabey (1803-1886). Of greater interest to the development of watercolors was the peculiar and individual talent of François-Marius Granet (1775-1849). The son of a master mason, Granet developed an early talent for drawing by copying his father's collection of prints after François Boucher and Joseph Vernet. He became a pupil of J.-A. Constantin at the free drawing academy in Aix-en-Provence, where Auguste de Forbin, the painter and future Director-General of the Musées Royaux, was one of his classmates. In 1793 Granet left Aix with the local Société Populaire to assist in the siege of Toulon. He worked as a draughtsman with the artillery battery, and his autobiography provides a vivid account of his experiences during the campaign; Ingres painted a portrait of Granet with the battlements in the background. On a subsequent tour of duty he was employed to paint republican motifs on ships in the naval base at Toulon. Thereafter Granet settled into a staid life as a museum official and amateur artist. His Two Barges on the Seine, Opposite the Louvre (1849, 10x17cm) is characteristic of most of his paintings, which show either the quays along the Seine or the parks at Versailles.

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The bulk of Hopper's watercolors focus on New England scenes painted during his annual summer excursions to Maine. Henri-Joseph Harpignies (1819-1916) was born at Valenciennes. He came from a prosperous, solidly bourgeois background. A precocious draughtsman, he received elementary art training at the municipal school and became a talented cellist who enjoyed playing the chamber music of Haydn and Beethoven in later life. His artistic career was delayed by employment in the family iron forges at Denain and at the Famars sugar refinery, although he drew caricatures under the influence of the great French satirical lithographers. In 1838 he was exposed to a wider variety of French landscape during a two-month tour with a family friend Dr Lachèze, who also introduced Harpignies to the landscape painter and etcher Jean-Alexis Achard (1807-84), with whom he studied in Paris in 1846. His first significant group of paintings and drawings in a marginally Realist style was made with his master at Crémieu in late 1847, but the Revolution of 1848 obliged him to return home. He then stayed with Achard in Brussels, producing his first sequence of etchings. At first a commercial traveler, Harpignies decided quite early in life to devote himself to painting. He took lessons from the landscape painter Jean-Alexis Achard in 1846, and embarked on a number of study trips to Belgium, Holland and Germany as well as to Italy in 1849-52, where he painted his first watercolors. (He returned to Italy in 1863-5.) View Near Rome (1850, 66x51cm) is one of his early Italian watercolors. His first Salon picture was a View of Capri in 1853. His early pictures are clearly influenced by Emile Corot, but his own personality quickly asserted itself. He traveled around France, painting all the different regions without preference. Throughout his long life, Harpignies exercised his talent with the same charm and joy throughout all the regions of France with a particular predilection for the Nièvre, the Allier and the Yonne, depicting with equal assurance the forests, the towns, the rivers and the sea. Greatly attracted by the work of the Barbizon painters, particularly by that of Corot, he stayed in Marlotte and worked in the Forest of Fontainebleau; its trees and undergrowth were one of his favourite themes. But despite the undoubted influence of Corot, he always remained faithful to his own interpretation of nature. He painted in an essentially Barbizon manner and worked regularly in the Forest of Fontainebleau from 1854. After 1869 the village of Hérisson in the Allier was another favourite site, but he painted in other regions including the Auvergne and the Bourbonnais. After 1878 he stayed mainly at his home in Saint-Privé, spending winters in Nice from 1885. Harpignies exhibited at the Salon from 1853 onwards. He was awarded a gold medal in 1866 and further medals in 1868 and 1869. He became a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur in 1875, an Officier in 1883 and a Commandeur in 1901. Thanks to his water colors, Harpignies occupied an important place in the Barbizon School. He died at Saint-Privé (Yonne).

Rudolf von Alt (1812-1905) was perhaps the most productive and accomplished watercolor painter in German-speaking Europe in the 19th century. On his frequent travels he produced local views, landscapes and interiors, often commissioned by aristocratic patrons. He studied with his father, Jakob Alt (1789-1872), a landscape and watercolour painter and one of the first to use the new technique of lithography. From the age of six Rudolf accompanied him on study trips, and, together with Alt's other children, he coloured his father's drawings. During his student days at the Akademie der Bildenden Kčnste in Vienna (1825-32), Rudolf joined his father on further journeys and collaborated in his studio. In 1832 he won a prize, which simultaneously freed him from military service and marked the beginning of his independent artistic activity. In the same year he produced his first oil painting, after his own watercolour, of the Stephansdom, Vienna (Vienna, Belvedere), a subject that he treated on many occasions until 1898. In 1833 he and his father travelled to northern Italy; Venice, in particular, made a lasting impression on him. Two years later he went to Rome and Naples. In the brilliant southern light Alt adopted a far wider range for his radiant and transparent colour. Many of his views of Italy, and also those of locations throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire, were intended for use in a peep-show, commissioned by the Austrian Archduke (later Emperor) Ferdinand. Alt continued to receive such official commissions until 1848. The Amio Gorge Near Tivoli (1835, 33x26cm) is an arresting image: at the center is a complex shape formed by the partially cropped and spatially folded building forms; these scale from the large house at right to the tiny jumble of boulders at left. Charcoal has been used in some areas to emphasize the value contrasts that make the pattern so interesting. This active form is set against the spare and beautifully shaded planes of earth, sea and sky, the whole unified bextending from yellow ochre to ultramarine blue across the cool umber of the roofs and a delicate glimpse of green lawn. The reduced range of hues makes the modeling of values more impactful — especially in the torso of the magnificent light tower, lit with reflected light along its lefthand base.

As the acknowledged source of classical painting and oil technique, Italy was among the European countries least affected by the development of watercolors. But toward the end of the century there were some advocates. Giacinto Gigante (1806-1876) was an Italian painter and printmaker from a family of accomplished artists. In 1816 he was introduced to painting by his father Gaetano Gigante, a decorator and landscape painter in the tradition of Jacob Philipp Hackert. His training in the style of Hackert, together with the drawing techniques taught at the Neapolitan Reale Ufficio Topografico (where he was employed from 1820), provided him with a foundation in landscape art based on direct visual analysis far from the conventions of classical composed landscape. At that time he met the German painter Jakob Wilhelm Huber (1787-1871) who worked among the large colony of English and German painters in Naples. Huber's style was based on the carefully controlled use of perspective; from him Gigante learned watercolor technique, the use of the camera lucida to establish the essential outlines of the landscape, and the method of painting directly from nature in the style of English artists. In 1823 Gigante enrolled at the Reale Istituto di Belle Arti in Naples and took part the following year in its drawing competition, which he won. In 1826 he exhibited four canvases at the first Esposizione di Belle Arti, set up by Ferdinand IV of Bourbon. Gigante did not fit in well with the life of the Istituto, and left early, although he was later nominated honorary professor there. His View of Capri (The Amalfi Coast) (1852, 22x27cm) shows definite appreciation of the Romantic landscape style that originated with Richard Parkes Bonington and the later topographers, especially in the broken clouds of the sky and the upward view toward the Amalfi villa.

Watercolor remained a design medium for the etchings used in newspaper and book illustrations, and a master of this occupation was the French artist Honoré Daumier (1808-1879). Daumier's pen was most frequently and famously turned on pompous lawyers and magistrates, but nuisances of the art world get their licks as well. And while his early drawings can be acidic, with sarcastic titles and overdrawn caricatures, his later works have a marvellous poise and depth. The Amateur (c.1870, 44x35cm) is a beautifully designed composition in value contrasts, a key problem to solve in works designed for the popular press. The angle of illumination rakes across the wrinkles of the man's clothing and captures the bony edge of his cheek (his profile is defined in soft shadow against the back of the chair); the flatter planes on the floor or back walls are represented in backgrounding shadows, except for the lightening around the plaster copy of the Louvre's Venus de Milo, the center of the dilettante's attention. Note the use of red color in the chair upholstery and behind the statuette to link the two together, enhanced by the cool white on the portfolio, figure of the man and the statuette, in contrast to the warm brown tints in the table and back walls. The small bust behind the chair, whose tucked chin makes it seem to be contemplating the model in sympathetic companionship with its owner, is a delightfully wry and tender touch. Daumier has a unique genius for presenting types with the passion of individuals, and of commenting on human foibles without seeking to gore them.

The bulk of Hopper's watercolors focus on New England scenes painted during his annual summer excursions to Maine. Edouard Manet (1832-1883). These often show lighthouses or isolated homes in town or countryside. Portrait of Berthe Moirisot (1874, 20x17cm) is an arresting image: at the center is a complex shape formed by the partially cropped and spatially folded building forms; these scale from the large house at right to the tiny jumble of boulders at left. Charcoal has been used in some areas to emphasize the value contrasts that make the pattern so interesting. This active form is set against the spare and beautifully shaded planes of earth, sea and sky, the whole unified bextending from yellow ochre to ultramarine blue across the cool umber of the roofs and a delicate glimpse of green lawn. The reduced range of hues makes the modeling of values more impactful — especially in the torso of the magnificent light tower, lit with reflected light along its lefthand base.

Many paintings depict well known buildings of the region in a manner that distances them from human activity. Gustav Moreau (1826-1898). In fact, human forms rarely figure into Hopper's watercolors, which leads some to interpret these houses as commentaries on the lives lived within them. But what seems to intrigue Hopper about Phaeton (c.1880, 99x75cm) is the way this prominent Gloucester landmark has achieved a life of its own, grimly soldiering o, and this house shows a touch of Burchfield's surreal animism. Windows shuttered or darkened in defiance of the light, fenced off from a street sprouting Hopper's trademark telegraph or electrical poles, this is a house as sturdy, proud and inconvenient as an old ship — or a fading tradition — holding its own against the same bleaching sun that has warped the greener timber of the modern age.

Much of this overview was guided by 19th Century Watercolors (Abbeville Press, 1991) by Christopher Finch, now out of print but available in most good art libraries.