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Stanford University

Watercolor Paint Set

Watercolor Paint Set

Artist unknown (North America), Watercolor Paint Set, before 1882.
Stanford Family Collections, JLS.15985

Cantor Arts Center, Stanford Family Collections

This late nineteenth-century paint set is composed of thirty different color cakes, four ceramic holders, and two small paintbrushes. Housed in a Victorian wooden box, it bears the logo of the London company Winsor & Newton. This set of “school colors” was most likely used by Leland Stanford Jr. when he was learning to paint, perhaps during the summer of 1876 in White Harbor, Maine, when he sketched the various ships on the water. Commercial in origin, the color cakes were most likely fabricated industrially and therefore are smooth and consistent. Watercolors are known for the ethereal, atmospheric tones they can achieve, mostly through the layering of translucent washes of diluted pigment. This particular paint set is a fitting palimpsest for the short life of Leland Jr., whose death suspended an atmosphere of grief over his household as well as the museum and university built in his honor.

María Gloria Robalino