Long before you could simply reach into your pocket and take a photograph or video at a second’s notice, the way the world looked had to be captured through painting alone. But, in our age of modern technology, it’s now all too easy to document current events, influential people and the way the planet continues to change through both natural forces and human intervention.
Whilst this is certainly a lot quicker, and gives us a much more detailed understanding of what is happening, no camera or tablet is able to give us the insight of past events in the same way that a painting created at the time can.
However, as time ticks by, the quality of these paintings slowly begins to fade and, unless preserved, we’re at danger of losing these masterpieces forever.
This is a particularly troubling thought as we look to our future generations to continue telling our story and ensuring the planet’s survival, and if we’re not careful the historical events and planetary changes that helped shape the world we live in today could become diluted through story telling or forgotten about altogether.
That’s not to say that the written word isn’t reliable when it comes to our future generations learning and retelling these events, however a painting has a certain gravitas that you can’t get from words alone.
So how can we make sure that these paintings are kept safe from the ravages of time, and can continue to educate and inform future generations? One man has the answer.
Javad Marandi from the Marandi Foundation, an organization that is dedicated to making art, culture and educational opportunities more accessible to disadvantaged young people all over the United Kingdom, is a supporter of Watercolour World.
This amazing website hosts an ever-growing online database of watercolour paintings that all date back to before 1900, and is providing free of charge access to some of the most important paintings ever created, all of which give our future generations an insight into ‘the world that was’.
Captured through modern technology such as high definition scanners and cameras, and then passed through powerful computer software to slightly adjust the colours and provide the most realistic copy possible, these watercolour paintings can be used to educate, inform and inspire.
And, by featuring paintings that are on display in some of the most prestigious galleries in the world, the opportunity to learn from them has been made available to younger people that would struggle to find the opportunity to view them with the naked eye.
One of the most important reasons that watercolour paintings are being preserved for future generations is to give an accurate depiction of certain historical events and of the people that were in charge at the time.
But they aren’t just telling us the story of what happened, they are also an important part of the world’s history themselves. Much like museum artifacts taken from Royal palaces and famous battlefields, the watercolours that paint the scene are an integral part of putting the whole picture together and really providing us with a better understanding of what the people involved in these historical events would have been feeling at the time.
This gives our future generations the opportunity to really experience the world’s rich history in as much detail as possible, and helps to remove any nonchalance or misunderstanding of some of the most famous battles and monumental moments the planet has ever seen.
As with the case of the fated Dodo, our future generations can use these watercolour paintings to learn lessons from past mistakes in order to protect the planet and it’s inhabitants moving forward.
One collection displayed on Watercolour World that highlights this point wonderfully, and rather poignantly, is Ruskin’s Warning to the Industrial Revolution. Amongst the paintings here you’ll find a watercolour of the glacier at the Passage of Mount St. Gotthard from the Devil’s Bridge, which was produced in 1804 by Joseph Mallord William Turner.
This painting is accompanied by a photograph taken of the exact same spot in 2018, which shows how much the glacier has melted away since its original depiction, and acts as an alarming wake-up call for future generations learning about the effects of climate change on the planet.
The same lesson in climate change can be learned by looking through another collection featured on Watercolour World entitled ‘How windmills shaped the world’. Here our future generations can learn about the first ever technology used for renewable energy, and where the inspiration for modern wind turbines and wind farms originally came from.
As well as an educational point of view, preserving watercolour paintings in a digital format also gives future generations of artists a reference point of the work in its original form, which can be used to rebuild and repair the original artwork if it were to deteriorate over time.
The digital library also allows for replication of art, meaning that future generations can produce exact copies of the original pieces that the world can continue to enjoy long after the artwork has been stored away for protection.