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I have a watercolor piece by Albert Herter that I estimate to be from between 1894-1900 by the name of "Gift of Roses". I've been working on identifying it the past few days and have a few questions about watercolor surfaces from that period. When we looked at the back of the piece, I was suprised to see that it was on a kind of pressed board, and not paper as I thought. I did not remove it entirely from the frame to avoid damage, so it may be mounted, but the edges seem to be consistent, no paper glued, just painted directly onto this board. I have pictures of the front and back for anyone that wants a look here https://imgur.com/gallery/RYdi1NK
I'm a painter myself and am pretty certain it's not a print or crayon enlargement, but the surface has me questioning that. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
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It is not particular surprising that an artist used
something other than traditional watercolor paper. Pressed-paper boards
intended for painting were available as early as the beginning of the 19th
century. These were more often intended for use as a substrate for oil painting,
but artists often make use of alternate materials. Additional, it is also possible that we are
simply seeing a supporting backing board. This practice was exceedingly common.
While the images do look like watercolor, there is no way
that I could or would make that determination based on a macro photograph. One
would really need to examine the surface with a microscope to be sure.
This was a relatively famous painting in its day, having earned the artist the Evans Prize at the 1899 American Watercolor Society exhibition. At or around that time, it was acquired by E.C. Converse, a wealthy businessman who left a considerable fortune when he died. You may be able to track down subsequent owners through auction records and information about the bequests from this estate. Herter's family did own an interior design business which sold reproductions, but the artist did execute originals on board some of the time, at least when doing magazine illustrations.