Exhibit in detail: Miracle Lamp with watercolour screen

On the World Watercolor Day, which is celebrated on November 23, our traditional column "Exhibit in details" is featuring the exhibit presented in the museum Collection section "Russian Metal Artwork" — miracle lamp with watercolour screen depicting the Admiralty. This miracle lamp with watercolour screen was made in the Russian Empire, St Petersburg in the second quarter of the 19th century.
Miracle lamp of gilded bronze for two candles, with movable rectangular watercolour screen rimmed by narrow bronze frame with ornately shaped finial. Watercolour image of the Admiralty in Saint Petersburg (presumably, after the lithography by T. Shukhman). The screen is fixed on rectangular (four-sided) rod topped with a stylised cone. The rod is mounted on a pedestal, which is decorated with openwork frieze of arches and floral rosettes.

Mexican artist Alfredo Guati Rojo (Alfredo Guati Rojo, 1918-2003) initiated the establishment of a professional holiday for watercolour artists - International Watercolour Day. This talented watercolour painter was convinced that watercolour can convey the beauty and perfection of the surrounding world as well as oil painting.
The name of the technique comes from similar French and Italian words meaning literally "watery", and the root of the word - "aqua" means "water" in Latin. The name indicates the type of colours used in this painting technique. These are colours based on water-soluble substances. The use of such colours allows achieving the effect of airiness and lightness of the image, smooth transitions. The use of paper as the basis of the painting and its preliminary moistening also helps to achieve such an effect. The best paper for watercolour is considered to be cotton wool, Bristol board and torchon (linen-finish texture).

Water colours were not as popular in Europe as oil painting or easel painting. Watercolours were mainly used by novice artists in training. Of the great painters of the Renaissance, Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), whose "Hare" became a textbook work, left a vivid trace in the history of watercolour. Then Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) and Claude Lorrain (1600-1682) paid tribute to watercolour. However, such examples remained solitary until the turn of the 18th -19th centuries. In 1804, the first Watercolour Society was founded in England. Watercolour painting was particularly developed in England in the first half of the 19th century. The English tradition of watercolour had a strong influence on Russian artists, primarily those associated with the Imperial Academy of Arts. One of the first recognised masters in the memorials of a past age of Russian watercolour by right of patriarch and level of skill was Pyotr Sokolov (1791-1848). Sokolov was the first successful Russian watercolour portraitist. In technical terms, his portraits were close to perfection — a fine contour made with a brush was combined with a transparent modelling tone, intense colourful spots, free and precise strokes that refined the fullness of the face.

In 1887, the Society of Russian Watercolourists was founded, which became an important milestone in the development of Russian watercolour. Its first chairman was Alexander Benois (1870-1960). Watercolour painting also fascinated members of the "World of Art" association — Lev Bakst (1866-1924), Ivan Bilibin (1876-1942), Konstantin Somov (1869-1939), Anna Ostroumova-Lebedeva (1871-1955). The poet Maximilian Voloshin (1877-1932) mastered watercolours to perfection, and his drawings overlapped with his poetic works. The peculiarity is that Russia never had specialised on training of narrow professionals — watercolourists. But the growth of interest in watercolour at the end of the 20th century changed the situation. A landmark event was the opening of the watercolour school (Academy of Watercolour and Fine Arts) of Sergei Andreyaka (born in 1958). In addition, in 1998, the Society of Watercolourists of St. Petersburg was revived.

During the last ten years there has been a real "watercolour boom" in the world. Many contemporary artists have appeared who paint watercolours in a manner that is not classical. The manner of painting became different, watercolour ceased to be classical, academic, and unfolded in its entirety.