February 2, 2016 1

J. Whatman Antique Paper

By in paintings, ruttan's place, sketches, watercolor, watercolour

In the last post I was writing about painting on simple typing paper, and the (futile) effort of stretching it. Well, today I was stretching some old paper I had inherited from my late Mom’s stash of art materials, which I had taken with me to Montreal back in 1987 from our family home in Calgary. There are five large sheets of it I’ve managed to hang on to as part of my own painting supplies.

The paper is a little brown around the edges, but I’ve been using bits of it, and it’s always been pleasant to paint with.

So today I was stretching some of it to make new paintings for my watercolour site Jack’s House of Cats. When the paper got wet, some letters appeared around one edge. A watermark. It seemed to read “Whatman.”

I looked the name up on the web, and found the story of J. Whatman’s paper company in England, founded in the 18th century. It disappeared in the 1980s when the factory burned down. The brand has been taken over by General Electric, and is still used for filters and papers meant for lab work. But the watercolour paper is one of those legendary names sought after by enthusiasts. Apparently, JMW Turner and James Abbott McNeil Whistler used it. [link]

So, to see better, I took out one of the sheets and put it up against a window, to snap it with the camera and read the following:




“J. Whatman 1941” “Handmade” “England.”

Some sites note that the date on the watermark is an honourary thing, and doesn’t necessarily tell when the paper was manufactured. Still, it’s possible this paper is 75 years old. I don’t know how my mom got hold of it. I only remember it coming in a big envelope to our house in Calgary after she had made a special order by mail.

It’s a great honour to paint on this, and I do want to paint on it. Because often, as a friend of mine has said, antique things stay untouched in a cupboard, to disintegrate on their own or eventually get ignored and thrown out through ignorance. I think these special things are honoured by being used.

One Response to “J. Whatman Antique Paper”

  1. […] do like good art materials, but can’t always afford high-end items. But as with this beautiful rag paper I inherited, I believe in using things up, rather than putting them on a shelf […]

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