Winslow Homer (1836–1910), 
Winslow Homer (1836–1910), "Old Friends,"  1894, watercolor and opaque watercolor over graphite with scraping on paper, 21 1/2 x 15 1/8 in., Worcester Art Museum, museum purchase, 1908.3

Worcester Art Museum
Worcester, Massachusetts
Through September 10, 2023

The Worcester Art Museum is home to one of America’s best collections of watercolors, yet their sensitivity to light means that many of the finest examples have not been exhibited since the 1980s. Now the museum has organized “Watercolors Unboxed,” its first show on this subject in more than a decade.

Curator Nancy Kathryn Burns has selected 40 works dating from the 1870s through the 1950s, encompassing American talents like Hassam, Kent, Sargent, and Wyeth, as well as such European counterparts as Modigliani, Kokoschka, and Nolde.

Together their watercolors trace how this medium was used to document the artists’ travels, often while working outdoors, and also how it leaves little room for mistakes, as the colors can easily get muddy or the paper soggy. Illustrated here is Winslow Homer’s “Old Friends,” a brilliant example of how he made adjustments as he worked, sometimes even scraping the paper to create spatial depth.

The museum is also debuting examples of its watercolors from the San Ildefonso School, a collective of Native American modernists who worked in the Southwest during the first half of the 20th century.

In addition, a selection of watercolors created by locals who have studied art at the museum will be displayed in a community gallery just outside the exhibition entrance.

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