I spent some time last spring, paint brush in hand, logging hours of plein air studies on the coast of Maine. While passing through Portland I met up with one of my college professors to share a drink and talk art. During our discussions I brought up my painting studies and he lent me a book about a watercolorist I'd never heard of before: S. P. Rolt Triscott. There's isn’t much easily accessible information available about him, yet many well known American watercolorists (Winslow Homer, for example) studied under him.
Samuel Peter Rolt Triscott (1846-1925) was born in England where he studied both civil engineering and painting. Being the middle of five sons and unlikely to receive any inheritance, he sought his fortune elsewhere. He wound up in Worcester, MA at age 25 where he worked as a surveyor until he'd established himself as an artist in the Boston area.
"During the 1870s, Triscott's surveying duties took him throughout New England, and he surveyed a good part of Massachusetts for road maps. Triscott seized upon this opportunity to paint from nature in locations ranging from Pomfret, Connecticut, to the Saguenay River in Quebec. One of the earliest Triscott paintings discovered to date, Merrimac River Near Franklin Falls, is in the traditional English acedemic style. The amount of detail in this 13- x 18-inch painting of a New Hampshire scene is surprising. All the Triscott trademarks are there, including the finely detailed luminous sky with its oncoming storm, the silvery sheen of the water in the winding river, the use of light and shadows, the dark greens of foliage contrasting with the lighter green of the fields, and the minor role of figures in the foreground."
Flipping through the pages of Triscott's work I was impressed by the quality and clarity of his watercolor landscapes. Triscott had such control over the medium it's hard to believe, at a quick glance, that some of it is truly watercolor. In the words of artist Susan Hale, "I think he has... gained so much ease in handling his materials that he can turn his attention to special effects of light and atmosphere, and that having this skill he has the good fortune to be able to perceive rare moods of nature and express them on paper..."
Better still, Triscott was also a photographer and took many of his own reference photos while traveling around New England. Many illustrators today use reference photos to improve the accuracy of their work; it's easy miss out on many of the natural mechanics of the world when painting purely from imagination instead of with reference to observe.
I have more reading about his work to do, but from what I've seen and read so far, his use of thin, transparent washes is confident and precise. If you're interested in studying watercolor and learning a thing or two about the medium, there's plenty to learn from observing his work. The pieces I found cataloged online are a bit washed out, but if you want a better idea of his work I would highly recommend buying Rediscovering S.P. Rolt Triscott, or borrowing it from your local library.