Explore the VaultsWater + Color

August 12, 2023 through February 5, 2024

Marguerite Thompson Zorach, American, 1887-1968, Four Nudes, c. 1915, Watercolor on paper, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Harry Weinstock

Among the most ancient of all artistic techniques is painting or drawing with pigments suspended in water. Because they can be created from simple substances—such as naturally occurring minerals, soot, plant materials, and water—these paints and inks are found in cultures around the globe. This exhibition explores paintings and drawings from the MFA’s permanent collection made using water-based media, including ink, gouache, and of course watercolor. In contrast to more complicated media, like egg tempera or oil paint, water-based paints and inks are easier to work with, dry more quickly, and can be used successfully without specialized training. Over the last two hundred years, commercially produced pigments and new media like acrylic paint have expanded the range of colors and finishes for water-based techniques. The works in this gallery, both on the walls and in the cabinet drawers, show the wide array of visual effects—from crisp lines to delicately hued washes to intensely saturated passages—created through water’s interaction with pigments upon various surfaces. 

Please enjoy the paintings and drawings on the walls—which are very rarely shown because of their sensitivity to light—but also open the cabinet drawers to experience additional works from the MFA’s permanent collection.

Marguerite Thompson Zorach, American, 1887-1968, Four Nudes, c. 1915, Watercolor on paper, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Harry Weinstock