Customer Review

20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An acceptable catalogue to a mediocre exhibition, 28 Feb 2011
This review is from: Watercolour (Paperback)
This review is a particularly personal view, and my view will probably not be the same as many other readers.

I can honestly say that the "Watercolour" exhibition at Tate Britain was the only exhibition I have ever been to that I felt very disappointed in. By trying to cram as many different types and uses for watercolour into a single exhibition, the organisers have succeeded in creating an unsatisfactory experience, at least for me. The emphasis on abstract expressionism was very disappointing, (it seems like about 30% of the exhibition is devoted to this style) - considering that Turner's "Blue Riga" is on the catalogue cover and all the posters advertising the exhibition, one gets the impression the exhibition mainly features traditional watercolour landscapes. This is not the case.

Which of course leads me to this book. This is, after all, a catalogue of the works included in the exhibition, so a brief review of the exhibition given above is also a review of this book. For me, the best works in the exhibition and book are the traditional landscapes of the 18th and 19th centuries, which British artists excelled at. Unfortunately there weren't a large number of these works included, and the reproductions in the book of these works are quite small compared to the late 20th century works, which have grander illustrations.

I'm not really sure who would like this book, to be honest. Its such a mix of styles that traditionalists like myself will be disappointed by the emphasis on contemporary works, and lovers of contemporary, more abstract art wont like the traditional works taking up space at the beginning. And for 'Sunday afternoon artists', it really doesn't show much to inspire your own work, since the illustrations are small and useless. I'm sure the book has some excellent essays on the history of British watercolour if that's what you're after - I do admit I only glanced through the essays and they did look in depth.

I went to this exhibition today with high expectations and wanted to enjoy it. I also planned on buying the catalogue, as I always do. But I was disappointed by the exhibition and didn't think much at all of the catalogue. I buy exhibition catalogues to have a nice illustrated record of the exhibition to keep forever, and have detailed information on each of the works. This book has good information on the works, but not so good illustrations as a record of the event. So this is one of the few catalogues I wont be buying. (For me, the best thing about this book is actually the cover.)

I give it 3 stars because many people who are studying the history of watercolour will find this book interesting and helpful. For anyone else, definitely look through it first before buying.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Jul 2011 17:06:11 BDT
Peasant says:
Thank you so much for this excellent and helpful review. I nearly made the (considerable) effort to go to this exhibition; as I am coming from approximately the same place as you I'm glad I didn't. I told myself, "but I will get the catalogue". I probably shan't, so that's some money saved. PS: if you haven't already got it, I think you'd like The Great Age of British Watercolours, 1750-1880, which is a very good catalogue of a previous exhibition of precisely the stuff you're interested in.

Posted on 26 Jul 2011 22:27:10 BDT
Bit harsh - it is very readable and informative

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jul 2011 10:15:06 BDT
Peasant says:
As you can see, the other 2 reviews are less than useful. So Mr David F. Horsfall please do us a review - there are people out here that need you. We want to know more.
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