Notebook, 1993-

Eastlake's Methods and Materials of Painting of the Great Schools and Masters

Eastlake, Sir Charles Lock [One-time President of the Royal Academy], Methods and Materials of Painting of the Great Schools and Masters [Formerly titled: Materials for a History of Oil Painting]. Vol. One. New York; Dover Publications, Inc. 1960 [Originally published by Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans in 1847]

Professional Essays - Chiaroscuro Preparations / Transparent Brown

Their Effect, Duly Managed, or Producing Depth and Richness

In the system of thin painting, adopted by some Flemish masters, and perhaps carried farthest [on a large scale] by Fra Bartolommeo among the Italians, much depends on the chiaroscuro preparation. The light ground is left for the lights, but, by the time the half-lights [as well as the shadows] are inserted, very little of the white ground remains. The transparent preparation or chiaroscuro [formed by a brown only, with lights left] being quite dry, the local colour is thinly painted over it. Light over dark is cold; and, in order to preserve the requisite warmth, the tint [suppose light red and white] spread over the preparation, still deepens in colour as the half-lights deepen: if this were not attended to the half-lights would still be too cold--and the darkest would be the most leaden. But by still proportioning the depth of the warm flesh tint to the depth of the half tint, a sufficient coolness [more or less as required] may always be preserved; the deepest shades should be retouched, if retouching is at all required, with transparent darks only, and will consequently be very warm. In this system the cool tints are produced in various degrees by passing light over dark, and no positive cool colour need [ p. 327] be introduced anywhere, except, if required, in the highest lights,--for there, the ground being pure and bright, nothing lighter [consistent with truth of tint ] can be passed over it; consequently cool tints cannot be produced dynamically, that is by seeing dark, or any degree of it, through light. In such cases actual cool tints may therefore be introduced if necessary, and the slightest tintings, whether of extreme warmth [as in vermilion touches] or coolness, which may be required to complete the work or to prevent monotony, will effectually conceal the artifice of the process. No other process so well secures depth and clearness, and combines richness of transparency with apparent solidity. To conceal the process still more, the highlights may be freely impinged with apparent substance [and some actual substance] by the aid of a thick, but not flowing vehicle, [drying cerate with "vernice liquida,"] and the whole may be finally glazed to a still warmer, deeper tone. The whole circle of operations might then be repeated--scumbling and glazing to any extent; but probably without adding to the original qualities in colour and real depth, although other improvements [in expression, &c.] might be the result. If, in the chiaroscuro preparation, white is used to insure greater completeness in form and expression, the whole system becomes more complicated, and care is requisite, perhaps with repeated operations, to preserve transparency in the [p. 328] shadows equivalent to that reproduced by leaving the ground. Heads, in unfinished pictures by Titian, are examples of this method. Solid chiaroscuro under-paintings, but by means of glazing brought into much the same state as a preparation with the ground left, should be first laid in; over such work, the thin, warm, flesh tints, leaving the deepest shadows for still richer tonings, would have the best effect.

In thus tinting a sky, prepared with a gradation of brown on a light ground [which should be quite dry], it is essential to clearness and depth that the blue and white superadded tint should be darker than the brown transparent preparation. When not so, the blue has a cold opaque look--on the contrary, it has always a toned warm effect when thinly painted over a ground lighter than itself. Care should therefore be taken not to make the brown preparation too dark, especially as the blue can always be toned by glazings and so rendered darker. In this system of sky painting, if there is any solid work it can only be in the preparation, ultimately toned and embrowned in the mode before described for flesh, before the thin blue is superadded. In order to get the blue flat [the preparation being quite dry] it should be laid in with a slow drying vehicle--mere oil--to which a little spike oil may be added to prevent needless yellowing. The same principle [that the superadded tints should always be darker] applies to all [p. 329] cold colours--green, grey, &c., but warm colours may be sometimes lighter than the brown ground, even when they are transparent, in order to produce cool tints. [pp. 327-330]



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