We know Elizabeth Asher's watercolors as marvelous sketches of old England at the beginning of the 20th century.
The Asher sisters, Elizabeth and Margaret, were born at the beginning of the 20th century in England in the resort town of Bath. The sisters themselves were from a well-to-do family and when Elizabeth was a small girl and a young Lady she actually saw and wore the beautiful outfits she portrayed in her watercolors. The fashionable, aristocratic resort presented a myriad of opportunities like that. Of course after World War II fashion changed considerably but what makes Elizabeth Asher's watercolors so dear to us is that she captured that wonderful time known as the "Belle Epoque" through the eyes of a first-hand observer.
Each Elizabeth Asher watercolor is like a short history from the lives of aristocrats at the beginning of the 20th century. We see beautifully attired people: ladies, gentlemen, children and governesses. Each outfit is an imprint of that beautiful epoch and provides invaluable information for clothing historians. Elizabeth Asher's heroes stroll down marvelous lanes of the old city, conversing with one another and admiring the landscape. The ladies often walk with their small dogs. The Asher sisters traveled a lot and their families had a villa in Italy. So we also see unforgettable Italian landscapes in many watercolors.
The old English school of painting is palpable in Elizabeth Asher's watercolors. Proportions between landscape and people are observed in her watercolors. Landscapes are well detailed and figure as prominently in the paintings as people do and do not merely serve as a background for them. This principle of balance was introduced into the art of painting by D. Reynolds, the well-known 18th century English artist.
Elizabeth attempted to adhere to this principle but her works have great artistic value not only because of that. The artist used a variety of techniques that were complex from a technical point of view such as for example wet on wet. That is when an artist draws not on dry paper but on wet. This is a very complex technique since after the paint is applied it is not possible to make any corrections. The artist's movements have to be extremely exact or the drawing will be irreversibly ruined.
We see more and more often the use of the "wet on wet" technique in detailing landscapes since faces and clothes of her painting's subjects are depicted with extreme clarity, without any fuzziness. It can be said that Elizabeth uses warm, pastel tones for nature in her watercolors and brighter monotone colors for clothes and people's faces. However this gradation is not exact. If she requires bright colors for an Italian sunset she will use them!
The subjects Elizabeth Asher chooses in her watercolors are diverse. For example in one watercolor ladies are not simply strolling down a park lane, they are engaged in an important conversation. It is as if the viewers are unintentionally eavesdropping while scrutinizing this wonderful old watercolor. In another one we see two women and a child. The clothing and behavior of the women let us know who is the Lady and who is the governess. In one watercolor the lady of the house is walking with a small dog and in another we see a governess with the master's favorite dog. In the next watercolor two old friends in excellently tailored suits meet, obviously two London dandies. And there an old auntie gives advice to her favorite nephew.
In general human figures in the Asher’s watercolors are not static, they are always in motion. People's faces show the emotions they are experiencing at any given moment. The artist succeeds in depicting both people's movements and their feelings.
Unfortunately Elizabeth is not longer with us. She died at the very end of the 20th century leaving behind the delightful world of her watercolorsonly.
And now we immerse ourselves with pleasure in the beautiful world created by the artist and saturated with subtle nostalgia for the wonderful period of the Belle Epoque.