American Water Color Society

Watercolorist Tom Nicholas painting at an American Watercolor Society demonstration

The American Watercolor Society is a nonprofit membership organization devoted to the advancement of watercolor painting in the United States. It was founded in 1866 by eleven painters and, originally, was known as the American Society of Painters in Water Colors.[1] Initially, it was difficult to draw in new members, partially because some artists of the time opposed the society's policy of allowing women to join.

Watercolor technique requires discipline, forethought, and planning of the composition, as the paintings can not be revised if mistakes occur (as one could with oil technique, for instance). AWS judges the work of a painter before granting admission to the society as an "active" (now "signature") member. Such membership in the society now is considered an indication of the painter having established a consistent style and to have demonstrated considerable skill in the medium. Transparency in the works of watercolor painters is highly valued. That is a technique wherein the paper surface is allowed to show through the applied paint as an integral aspect of the painting. The applicant usually must demonstrate a history of winning prizes in juried art shows with professional standing to gain admission. This type of membership in the society, generally, is signaled by "AWS" following the painter's name in promotional materials and biographies. Membership by others is indicated as an "associate" status.

Catherine Tharp Altvater (1907-1984) was the first woman to hold office in the society. In 2008 Jim McFarland took over presidency from Janet Walsh.


  1. ^ Erin Corley (2007). "American Watercolor Society records, 1867-1977, bulk 1950-1970". Archives of American Art Oral History Program. Retrieved 17 Jun 2011. 

External links

  • American Watercolor Society Website
  • Documenting the Gilded Age: New York City Exhibitions at the Turn of the 20th Century. A New York Art Resources Consortium project. Exhibition catalogs of the American Watercolor Society.

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