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Zarh Pritchard holds a completely unique place in the history of art. Developing a highly original technique Pritchard became the first artist to literally work underwater.
Born in India, Pritchard grew up with two loves – art and the sea. During his school years he was most influenced by Charles Kingsley’s fairy tale The Water-Babies (1863) and Jules Verne’s science fiction adventure Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1873), both featuring human beings living freely on the ocean floor. Inspired by visions seen while submerged underwater during seaside holidays Pritchard began creating harmonious poetic works, which have been linked to the American turn-of-the-century movement Tonalism.
What began as short dives with the artist re-surfacing between breaths to sketch above water, ultimately matured into descents for up to two hours with the artist painting on the sea floor. In this silent aquatic world, Pritchard created his dreamy atmospheric images of the under-sea paradise using only crayons on oil-soaked paper taped to glass. These crayon images were later recopied in his studio onto large leather sheets that were stretched like canvas. Pritchard traveled extensively throughout the world, creating exotic images from locations as diverse as the kelp filled caverns off the coast of Scotland to the coral filled lagoons of Tahiti.
American Museum of Natural History, New York
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston