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American Watercolors

Resources on watercolor societies from the 19th and 20th centuries in New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston.


New York Water Color Society

The first association in the United States organized to promote watercolor painting was formed in 1850. Originally called the Society for Promotion of Painting in Water Colors, the group was later known as the New York Water Color Society (NYWCS). Active in New York and Brooklyn, with a membership composed of many British-born painters and printmakers, the club was moribund by 1856. The minutes of the Society, held by the New-York Historical Society, record the formation of a life school and a series of meetings and receptions, where work was shared among the members, collectors, and dealers. The Society mustered only one exhibition, held within the larger art display of the New York Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1853. The checklist of that modest display, together with the irregular minutes, has allowed a reconstruction of the membership, listed below. Although brief in existence, the club laid the foundations for the later American Watercolor Society, as ninety percent of the members of the NYWCS still active in New York in 1866 would participate in the new club formed that year. For more on the NYWCS and the work of its founders and key members, see Foster, American Watercolor in the Age of Homer and Sargent (2017), pp. 29–43.



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