Watercolor paint

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Maine lighthouse by Hopper
MFA Acc. #: 48.723


A transparent or opaque paint with an aqueous binding medium. Most watercolor paints contain Gum arabic as a binder. Aqueous based paints made with vegetable gum binders were used by Egyptian, Greek, and Roman artists for wall paintings. Japanese and Chinese painters extensively used watercolor paints on Silk and paper supports. In the 16th-18th century, watercolor paints were used for miniature illustrations on Porcelain, Ivory, cards, books and manuscripts. By the 18th and early 19 centuries, watercolors rapidly increased in popularity due to the availability of small cakes of watercolor paints in metal pans. Water-based paints often contain additives such as plasticizers (Hydromel, Glycerin), wetting agents (Oxgall, Surfactant) and preservatives (Phenol, Alcohol).

Folding fan
MFA Acc. #: 53.2179

Synonyms and Related Terms

watercolors ; watermedia; water color paint; water-colour paint (Br.); aquarelle (Fr.); akvarel (Dan.); Aquarell (Deut.); acuarela (Esp.); acquerello (It.); aquarel (Ned.); akvarell (Nor., Sven.); akwarela (Pol.); aguarela (Port.); tinta de aguarela (Port.)

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Resources and Citations

  • Reed Kay, The Painter's Guide To Studio Methods and Materials, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1983
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • Hermann Kuhn, Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art and Antiquities, Butterworths, London, 1986
  • Matt Roberts, Don Etherington, Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books: a Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1982
  • Dictionary of Building Preservation, Ward Bucher, ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York City, 1996
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998
  • Website address 1 Comment: D. van der Reyden "Identifying the Real Thing" www.scmre.org/analysis.htm