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Te Papa Contributes to Watercolour World Project

Te Papa Contributes to New Visual History of the World

Double Royal Patronage Announced Today

Paintings from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa form part of an ambitious project to make available to the public more than three centuries’ worth of documentary watercolours from around the world.

The Watercolour World project, which today received royal backing from both The Prince of Wales and his wife The Duchess of Cornwall, aims to create a unique visual history of the world by giving online users access to digitised documentary watercolours dating from before 1900. With tens of thousands of pictures already in the process of being uploaded, the project website is set to become a significant new source of global history when it is launched in Spring next year.

Amongst the tens of thousands of pictures already in the process of being uploaded are a 19th century depiction of the Pink Terraces at Lake Rotomahana by the renowned Auckland-based watercolourist JC Hoyte (1835-1913) and a painting of a Common Seadragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus) from Fortescue Bay in Tasmania by ichthyologist and scientific illustrator Frank Edward Clarke (1849 – 1899) who discovered numerous fish species previously unknown to science.

Announcing the project today, Founder and Chairman Fred Hohler said:

“A re-evaluation of the documentary record contained in watercolours is bringing back into focus a fascinating but largely ignored visual record of the cultures and countries of our world from the Age of Enlightenment through to the modern era. By sourcing and digitising these watercolours – many more of which will be discovered during the course of this project – we are giving online users the ability to explore specific locations throughout the world through over three hundred years’ worth of watercolour painting.

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“We are hugely honoured Their Royal Highnesses have taken the highly unusual step of becoming joint Royal Patrons, which reflects both their and our own commitment to providing public access to the visual arts.”

Commenting on the contribution of Te Papa, Chief Executive Geraint Martin said today:

“As a world leader in interactive museum experiences, Te Papa is delighted to be contributing to this innovative Watercolour World project which seeks to increase public access to a visual understanding of the world in way that has never been attempted before. It’s a hugely ambitious project which has our fullest support.”

The Watercolour World digital library will include images of documentary watercolours covering topography, anthropology and botany as well as historic events, people and places. Visitors to the website, to be launched in Spring next year, will be able to explore the watercolours via an interactive map and will have the opportunity to help identify unknown locations, join in discussions and deepen all our understanding of this unique historical record.

Founder Fred Hohler realised the importance of this collection of images early in his work setting up the Public Catalogue Foundation and it builds on this previous project. The PCF catalogued over 230,000 oil paintings in publicly owned or supported collections throughout the UK.

The Duchess of Cornwall was Patron of the PCF initiative as well, and is now joined for Fred Hohler’s new project by her husband, The Prince of Wales, himself a keen watercolourist and founder of the Royal Drawing School.

The Watercolour World is backed by The Marandi Foundation, a London-based charity chaired by British entrepreneurs and philanthropists Javad and Narmina Marandi. Of the project, Javad Marandi said, “Watercolours are a priceless record of the world before photography. Many of them would be of great interest to historians, scientists and members of the general public, but are hidden from view and at risk of disappearing. We are very proud to be supporting The Watercolour World and its project to cast a critically important light on the world's historical record.”


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