There's a Free Online Archive of Pre-1900 Watercolors From Around the World

William Simpson, Private Collection
William Simpson, Private Collection

Watercolor paintings have long been a disparaged art medium. At one time, they were viewed as being less worthy than fine art, or were dismissed as a “ladies’ medium” because they often dealt with flowers and pretty landscapes, which were considered trivial subjects.

A new digital archive of watercolor images from the 1400s through the 1800s is now painting a different picture of the art form’s impact. Creating watercolors wasn’t just a hobby for housewives; it was a way for scientists, architects, and explorers to document the world around them.

Run by a UK-based charity, The Watercolour World website culls these historic artifacts from both private and public collections, then uploads them for all to see. Users can browse the selection or narrow their search field by collection, category, country, artist, or date range.

The website boasts more than 80,000 images of “documentary watercolors” made before the year 1900. These depictions of people, animals, architecture, and landscapes from around the world were meant to capture moments at a time when portable cameras hadn’t been invented yet. A Maori girl from New Zealand, Tibetan weavers, Egyptian tombs, and 16th-century images of Native Americans are among the many subjects featured. There are also plenty of flora and fauna, drawn up by artists and scientists alike.

"Watercolours are a priceless record of the world before photography," Javad Marandi, chairman of The Watercolour World’s advisory board, said in a press statement. “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.”

Here are just a few of the stunning images on view online.

Painting of a toucan eating a smaller bird
Maria Sibylla Merian, Trustees of the British Museum

A painting of frogs
Maria Sibylla Merian, Minneapolis Institute of Art

A painting of the old and new London Bridges
Gideon Yates, Bishopsgate Institute

A painting of Dover Castle
Thomas Girtin, Yale Center for British Art

Painting of the Royal Academy in 1858
William Payne, Yale Center for British Art

Artist Turns 5000 Marshmallow Peeps Into a Game of Thrones Dragon

PEEPS® and Vivian Davis
PEEPS® and Vivian Davis

Game of Thrones returns to HBO for its eighth and final season on Sunday, April 14. Instead of worrying about which of Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons (if any) will survive to see the end of the series, distract yourself with some playful Peeps art inspired by the creatures.

In 2018, artist Vivian Davis (who's on Instagram as @tutoringart) constructed a Game of Thrones-themed dragon sculpture out of 5000 marshmallow Peeps as part of PEEPshow, an annual Peeps-themed event in Westminster, Maryland. The dragon has her wings outstretched, with a nest of colorful eggs in front of her. It's not quite life-sized, but it is massive—the candy model measures 8.5 feet tall, with a 7-foot wingspan. For comparison, Gwendoline Christie, who plays Brienne of Tarth, is 6 feet, 3 inches (or 75 Peeps chicks) tall.

A 'Game of Thrones' dragon made of PEEPS chicks with its wings spread
PEEPS® and Vivian Davis

Easter falls on Sunday, April 21 this year (also the premiere date of Game of Thrones season 8, episode 2) which means that Peeps season is in full swing. For more delicious Peeps content, check out these facts about the cute candy.

Airbnb Is Turning the Louvre’s Pyramid Into a Hotel for One Lucky Winner

Julian Abrams, Airbnb
Julian Abrams, Airbnb

As the world’s most visited museum, the Louvre in Paris tends to get pretty crowded, especially in the area surrounding the Mona Lisa painting—which, spoiler alert, is tiny.

However, one lucky winner and a guest will get the chance to inspect Mona Lisa’s smile up close and personal, without the crowds, while spending a night inside the museum’s famous Pyramid. As AFAR magazine reports, the sweepstakes is sponsored by Airbnb, which has previously arranged overnight stays in Denmark’s LEGO House and Dracula’s castle in Transylvania. (Accommodation on the Great Wall of China was also arranged last year, but was canceled at the request of local authorities.)

Upon checking into the Louvre, guests will receive a personalized tour of the museum led by an art historian. After getting their fill of art, they will enjoy drinks in a lounge area set up in front of the Mona Lisa, all while French music plays on vinyl. They’ll have dinner with Venus de Milo in a temporary dining room, followed by an acoustic concert in Napoleon III’s apartments.

“At the end of this very special evening, the winners will retire to their bedroom under the Pyramid for what promises to be a masterpiece of a sleepover,” Airbnb said in a statement. (They also guarantee that guests won’t be seen through the building's windows, so if privacy is a concern, rest assured.)

The Louvre sleepover will take place on April 30, but the winner will also receive complimentary stays at other Airbnb locations in Paris on April 29 and May 1. Round-trip airfare will be provided, as will all meals and ground transfers in France. To enter, all you have to do is answer one question: “Why would you be the Mona Lisa’s perfect guest?”

Check out more photos of the experience below, and visit Airbnb’s website to enter the contest.

A lounge area by the Mona Lisa
Julian Abrams, Airbnb

Napoleon III’s chambers
Julian Abrams, Airbnb

A dining area next to Venus de Milo
Julian Abrams, Airbnb

[h/t AFAR]

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