Monday, 23 June 2014

Daler-Rowney Watercolours

Daler- Rowney are one of the very oldest watercolour manufacturers dating from 1783. The company was started by Richard and Thomas Rowney and they supplied, and were family friends of, famous artists like Turner and Constable.

In 1963 they introduced the first artists acrylic paints in Europe and in 1969 moved from Central London to Bracknell, where they currently reside. I have actually visited the factory and seen watercolours being produced.

Generations of Rowney children running the company ended in 1969 when the last MD Tom Rowney, who was childless, sold the company to Morgan Crucible, a conglomerate who had managed Rowney's operations for a number of years.The Daler board company was incorporated in 1946 and the American brush maker, Robert Simmons, purchased in 1994. To my surprise I also discovered that the German paint maker Lukas became part of the Rowney group in 2013.

While Rowney produce a wide range of artists  products this is about the watercolour line or should I say lines. These are the Top of the range Artists Watercolours, Aquafine student colours and Simply. I am primarily concerned with the top artist's range and have no experience with these cheaper products.

The range comprises 80 colours in total, 66% single pigment paints. and are priced in only two series. Prices are generally very good and paints are cheaper than many of the other artists quality paints. In my opinion quality is good and on a combined price/quality basis they are an excellent buy  - one of the best in fact.  Not everyone can afford Daniel Smith and the other more expensive makes. Surprisingly so are (or were) Lukas so it will be interesting to see what effect the Rowney ownership will have. 

Daler-Rowney Chip Chart - obtained on a visit to the factory some years ago. This is the only one I've ever seen

How good are the paints? Bruce McEvoy of Handprint in 2000, pretty much damned them as a `second Tier' brand in both price and quality. I have a great regard for Bruce but I think he is somewhat harsh in his criticisms. He did single out and praise Warm Orange (PO73), Indian Yellow (PY153) and Cobalt Blue Deep (PB72). I have those plus Indanthrene Blue (PB60), Cobalt Magenta (PV14), Ultramarine Violet (PV15), Green-Gold (PY129) and a few others. A friend of mine loves the Transparent Red Brown (PR206). Note all first class pigments. A few years ago I did some workshops with the artist Trevor Waugh and he was then using Rowney paints, although he did say he preferred some colours in other makes. Amongst other subjects he painted flowers and the results were superb. Many other British professional artists use Daler-Rowney watercolours quite happily. With the Indian Yellow the demise of PY153 puts a question mark over this one although I still have several tubes. I actually bought them at F.J Harris in Bath, a local art shop, who have been selling Rowney watercolours for months at better prices than the mail order specialists! Windsor & Newton and Rowney pretty much have a monopoly in British art shops so I imagine it is in their interest to support local shops rather than let them be swamped by the mail order specialists. I've noticed the local shops having some better deals in the last year or two.

Of course personal preference plays a large part in selecting paints and what suits one doesn't necessarily suit another. If you are looking for a good quality watercolour at a keen price then they are worth a try.


John Softly said...

A nice insight into a company that receives little accolades but their watercolours, in my opinion, are as good as many of others of their ilk. I had occasion to rumage through my "Red" box today for Indian Red. There were 2 tubes of PR101 which date back 15 years. The Holbein had dried to the point of being very difficult to force from the tube but the Rowney was as fresh and liquid as the day I bought it.
Have you ascertained whether Bromley's generic watercolours are, in fact, Rowney?
The new James Russell book on Seago has just been published. A supurb publication with over 200 illustrations and never before published photographs. Most of Seago's paintings contained therin are oils but this publication is a nice addition to sit on the bookshelf between the 2 Ron Ransons"s and Jean Goodman's biography.

Peter Ward said...

Hi John. Thanks for comments. I don't know the provenance of Bromley's watercolours. They may not be Rowney looking at the pigments used and the tube size. I was told the SAA watercolours were made by someone who used to work for Rowney. Perhaps we'll eventually find out. I owe you an e-mail and will be replying soon.