Over the last 100 years, the world has been documented in ways that were never available before the 20th century. The invention of photography allowed us to perfectly capture moments in time with great detail, and when videography came to the forefront of technology we were able to document history in motion.
But what about the history of the world prior to these wonderful inventions? Wars, coronations and moments of great human impact on the world all needed to be documented through painting alone.
The way the planet looked hundreds of years ago was remarkably different from what we see now as well, and again it’s these historical paintings that allow us to travel back through time and gain valuable insight into what the world was like.
However, one of the unfortunate side effects of these moments being captured in this way is that paintings eventually begin to fade over time, losing their vibrancy and the story they’re telling along with it. And we just can’t afford to let that happen.
You see, these historic paintings don’t just give us the ability to look at how many things have changed over a really long period of time, but they also offer us the opportunity to learn from them and to make changes as we move forward.
Luckily, thanks to one man’s efforts, these important paintings are being given the care and attention they deserve and are also being made available to a wider audience in order to educate, inform and help to preserve our ancient history.
Javad Marandi is the man in question, a co-founder of The Marandi Foundation. This wonderful organization was established in 2017 and is on a mission to provide support for young people’s mental health, as well as providing opportunities in education by introducing art and culture to young people that would otherwise have difficulty gaining access to it.
This is being achieved through Javad’s support of Watercolour World, a website that takes historic watercolour paintings dating back to before 1900 and digitizes them, making them available to view online from anywhere in the world. Not only does this mean that the paintings themselves are protected from eventual degradation, but it also preserves the moments of history they portray at the same time.
Access to the entire website and all the watercolour paintings contained therein is also entirely free of charge, which opens the gallery up to international audiences and gives people that wouldn’t be able to see the paintings without travelling far and wide the opportunity to enjoy and learn from them.
One of the most important reasons that we need to preserve these watercolour paintings, and the history of the world that they depict, is so that we don’t forget the stories they are telling and the people that were involved in the making of that historical moment.
Take this 1838 painting by an unknown artist of Queen Victoria’s coronation for example. Until very recently, Queen Victoria was the longest-reigning monarch in British history, and within her reign, the Industrial Revolution was born, changing the world in the process and paving the way for the invention of today’s modern technology.
Younger generations may not be aware of these facts though, and this is why paintings such as this are important, so they can educate and inspire whilst preserving the moments of history that changed the world. And what better way to get access to these historical moments than by simply looking online.
The metropolitan world that we’ve come to know also would have looked a lot of different hundreds of years ago, and thanks to the digital preservation of these historical paintings we’re able to get a glimpse at some of the world’s most famous places long before they looked anything like they do now.
This 1660 watercolour of New Amsterdam (which later became New York) is a great example of this and shows what the now famous Manhattan landscape looked like over 350 years ago. It’s a world that you could never imagine existed, with the absence of towering skyscrapers and bustling streets, yet it’s what the scene would have been at the time.
History paved the way for advances in medicine as well, and the opportunity to look back at the way surgeons and doctors of old carried out their craft is something that can also educate us into how modern medicine came to be.
This painting that dates back to 1801 shows a doctor carrying out a procedure known as ‘Perkins Tractors’, which was a treatment involving two metal rods being passed over the body and drawing out disease through the use of electricity. Of course, this has since been completely disproven and has been firmly allocated to the history books, however by having access to this painting we are aware of the medicinal practices being performed at the time.
It’s not just historical events and the people involved in creating them that need to be preserved for future generations to learn about. The natural world has changed dramatically since 1900 as well, and by digitizing the landscapes, seascapes and portraits of animals we are given the opportunity to reference them and see these changes for ourselves.
One collection of paintings you can find on Watercolour World shows the work of convicts that were sent to Australia, where the land would have been untouched, wild and totally unrecognizable to what we know today. These artists also created paintings of the animal and insect life that they came across, many of which would have been first discoveries not just for them but for the entire world and would certainly have been important historic discoveries.
Our modern world is ever-changing, and political climates, new scientific discoveries and advances in modern technology are adding a brand-new page to our history books almost every day. But it’s our ancient history that we often need to look back on in order to move forward.
Javad Marandi and his dedication to working with Watercolour World are giving us the opportunity to do just that, whilst ensuring that our history and the important lessons we can learn from it is preserved along with the paintings themselves.