WINSOR & NEWTON, A Brief History

Over Christmas my daughter picked a book off the shelf called ‘How It All Began’. It contains a brief history behind some of the world’s most famous company names and was bought for me for Christmas 1995. I had forgotten it was there. On leafing through it I came across a page devoted to Winsor & Newton and as I have been using their art materials in one form or another for fifty years I thought it only right that I should share some of their history with you.

In 1832 the company was established at 38 Rathbone Place, London, by William Winsor and Henry C Newton, both in their late twenties. They shared an interest in painting and their skills complemented each other, Newton being the better painter and Winsor providing the scientific knowledge that would prove so important. A number of important artists had studios in the area, including Constable, and other colour-men were already established.      

In the early 1800's watercolours were sold in oblong cakes that had to be rubbed down with water on a surface such as ground glass before the colour could be used. The two men devised moister colours in small pans which were easily fitted into sketching boxes and were much simpler and more convenient to use than watercolour cakes. A sheet of foil was laid over each pan to preserve the moisture more effectively than the traditional honey and glycerine, though these were still used.

In 1837 Chinese White paint was introduced, an important addition to the watercolour range, and in 1841 they were appointed Artists’ Colourmen to Queen Victoria. In 1844 a purpose-built steam-powered factory was constructed at Kentish Town, known as the North London Colour Works and in 1846, metal tubes containing moist watercolours were introduced by the company. In 1893 the firm received three awards at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago and in 1915 an American subsidiary was created. 

Today Winsor & Newton art materials are manufactured entirely at Wealdstone and Lowestoft and are distributed throughout the world by subsidiaries and agents.  
Top: William Winsor, left. Henry Newton, right.
Second from top:
The Watercolour Room at the Colour Works  1889. The stone slabs can be seen where the colour was spread out for partial drying. The screw presses on the right were used for forming the watercolour cakes.
Images of Winsor & Newton paints from the inside of the antique set of drawers in my studio.
Above: S & I Fuller's premises at 34 Rathbone Place, London from an advertisment in Lady's Magazine 1823 referred to as 'Temple of Fancy'. As well as art materials they sold prints, books of instruction and paintings.
Book Reference: How It All Began by Maurice Baren, published by Smith Settle, 1992.
The Tempting Prospect, A Social History of English Watercolours by Michael Clarke, A Colonnade Book published by British Museum Publications 1981.
Post published by Tomas King 31st Dec 2012



I have been working in watercolour since 1979 and I still find it the most fickle of mediums. Just when I think I have mastered it, it slips away again. That is both its frustration and its charm. To see further examples of my watercolours follow the link here to: Recent Watercolours
The boat study to the right was originally done as a demonstration, I like it in its unfinished state.
Above: Over the Hills and Far Away, a recent watercolour.
Post published by Tomas King 18 - 7- 2012


One of the big appeals of painting at the coast is that no two days are the same. These two seascapes were produced on location in the south east corner of Ireland in the month of June. In both oil paintings the changing light and big skies had a dominent influence on the subjects creating the need to work quickly to capture the moment. I work wet in wet when painting in oil and enjoy the liquid feel of the paint, pushing it around the canvas and laying one colour over another like spreading butter.
Top: Summer Breeze, Oil on Canvas, 40 x 55cm
Below: On an Emerald Tide, Oil on Canvas 40 x 55cm
Post published by Tomas King 14 - 7 - 2012         


                                                                                                                                  I purchased this set of drawers about thirty years ago from a bric-a-brack shop in Rothwell, Northamptonshire, England. I was on on my way home after visiting a client and there it was in the window. It had obviously been part of an art shop display in past times. It is so unusual to come across anything like this to do with art or studio equipment that I bought it immediately and have never regretted it. It is clearly quite old judging by the labels stuck to the inside of some of the compartments. I would imagine originally there was one in each compartment denoting where each colour went. Its hard to tell how old it is but would guess about eighty years. It still works and is very much a useful part of the daily life of my studio.
Post pulished by Tomas King 25th June 2012


The top painting was produced on location at Tomsallagh in County Wexford in mid June. The lower two paintings were produced on location at Kilmokea Gardens, also in County Wexford, Ireland. These gardens are a painters delight presenting a mix of formal clipped hedging with a cottage garden feel in a series of enclosures. The gardens at Kimokea were started in 1947 around the pretty georgian house overlooking the river Barrow and have been gradually extended while retaining the original character and charm. The gardens are open to the public. To see further blog posts on painting in gardens follow the links here to: Painted GardensSummer in the Garden 09 
Top: Tomsallagh, oil on canvas 40 x 55cm. Below: The Garden Path, Kilmokea, oil on canvas 40 x 50cm. Bottom: Still Waters, Kilmokea, oil on canvas 40 x 50cm.
Post Published by Tomas King 30 - 05 - 2012


The top two watercolours were produced on location at Carne in County Wexford, Ireland. Top: Wind Swept 32 x 50cm. Below, The Old Bake House 31 x 50cm. Three and four were painted in the Wicklow Mountains on a beautiful June day. Image 3 is 'Avoca' 32 x 49cm and image 4 is 'At the Meeting of the Waters' 30 x 45cm.
Posted by Tomas King 30 - 05 - 2012 


I was asked by the Dublin Painting and Sketching Club to do an oil painting demonstration during their 2012 annual exhibition. The time allocated for the demonstration was two hours so I decided to use my recent watercolour painting 'Coastal Cottage' as the subject (image 1). The original image was still fresh in my mind, not over complicated for the time allocated and I thought it would be interesting to reinterpret it in oil.
Top right: Image 1, Original watercolour
Second from top right: Image 2, Outline on tinted canvas
Centre below: Image 3, Demonstration after two hours work
Below centre: Image 4, Finished painting after a little work in the studio
Bottom Right: Image 5, Detail of finished painting


I started with a pre-prepared canvas stained a warm grey on which I had mapped out the composition in a muddy brown (image 2). I began the painting with the sky and worked my way across the canvas in bold broad brush strokes using short flat bristle brushes blocking in the main elements of the composition. Image 3 shows the painting at the end of the demonstration after two hours work. I took the painting home and two days later set it up in my studio where I did a little work on it while it was still wet, redefining the shapes and softening some of the brush strokes (image 4). I was conscious not to over work the painting and tried to retain the freedom of the original demonstration (image 5).  
Post published by Tomas King 1st 05 2012 



As part of the Art in the Open Festival 2012 I have been asked to give a half day watercolour workshop on the 30th July at Inistioge Village, County Kilkenny, Ireland starting at 9.30am. The workshop will include a demonstration en plein air in this beautiful village. 
Those wishing to take part should contact the the Art in the Open website at: for further details of this and other events.
 Above: Coastal Cottage, Carne. Watercolour on Paper
Post published by Tomas King 26 04 2012


These wonderful decoupage letters were made for me by my daughter as a gift for my studio. The craft of applying decorative paper cut-outs to a surface originated in the 18th century and takes on a new dimension when applied to these strong simple letter shapes - I love them.

Post by Tom King 18- 4-12