Once considered a medium best suited to amateur artists or preliminary sketches, watercolor painting developed into a significant force in American art during the second half of the 19th century. By the turn of the century, watercolor painting had reached such a high level of popularity that many critics proclaimed it the “American Medium.”
Working in a wide range of styles and motifs, amateur and professional artists produced watercolors of technical brilliance and captivating beauty that pushed the boundaries of the medium and positioned watercolor at the leading edges of American art.
Many artists who achieved great fame for their paintings in oil such as John Singer Sargent, Thomas Moran, and John La Farge also devoted considerable attention to watercolors, producing some of their most spectacular and enduring efforts within this medium. Through the twentieth century, leading artists like Charles Demuth, John Marin, Maurice Prendergast, and Marguerite Zorach continued to embrace watercolor, which played a pivotal role in the progress of American modernism.