Together with the TATE, we produced a range of limited-edition sets of artist materials, designed to introduce you to the styles and techniques of some of the world’s greatest artists. Each set contains everything you need to journey with the masters into their distinct medium, including bespoke how-to guides where you’ll learn techniques used by the artist.
In Part I of this article, we introduce three of the six artists featured in the sets, Wassily Kandinsky, J.M.W. Turner, and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham.
Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944) was a Russian painter and art theorist. He was a pioneer of abstract modern art, a journey prompted by his spirituality, believing that music was the most transcendental form of expression and that all the arts were connected. He saw colour as visual music that could directly resonate with the soul. By releasing colour and line from form, from representing our physical realities, it allowed for purely expressive paintings. The slow drying nature of oil paints afforded for a leisurely, meditative approach to painting that was in line with his interests as an artist.
J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851) was an English Romantic painter, known for his land and seascapes.
He was a master of watercolours who pushed the boundaries of what the medium could do. Throughout his career he was forever preoccupied with water, weather, and light. For this, the transparency of watercolour, the flow of colour washes on dampened paper, and the possibilities of blending colours using this wet-on-wet technique, made it a fitting medium. Turner was a hands-on painter using his fingernails, brush handles, damp cloths and such to scrap, mop, and manipulate the colours, usually on wet paper.
Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912–2004) was a Scottish painter, printmaker, and draughtswoman. During WWII she joined other British avant-garde artists in St Ives and it was here she began her excursions into abstract art. A trip to Switzerland in 1949, where she encountered huge elemental glacial forms, provided the final push into abstraction. The versatility of acrylic paint suited her later abstract developments and seemed to liberate her. Depending on how it is used, acrylic can take on the characteristics of watercolor, gouache, or oil paint and is eminently suitable for creating flat colour and distinct lines.
Look out for Part II of this article in which we introduce Edgar Degas, John Singer Sargent, and Victor Pasmore.