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