The medium of watercolor has been particularly associated with England for several hundred years. However, its origins lie further back in the history of European painting. Pigments, consisting of earths or vegetable fibers ground to powder and bound with gum or egg, were in use in the Middle Ages. They were applied to vellum to adorn manuscripts, to depict religious and (later) secular scenes – as well as to enrich capital letters and ornament borders.
Some artists at that time were beginning to use watercolor properly – that is, pigments floated in the transparent medium of water, which, instead of covering up the support, allowed it to shine through the washes of color.
As paper manufacture became more sophisticated and incidental impurities and discolorations were eliminated, it became possible to use watercolor as the source of luminosity in a ‘tinted drawing’. The medium recommended itself particularly for use in landscapes, when the brightness of the sky must be given due emphasis.