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 - Crispness & Sharpness before Tinting

For the "sfumato" system, and the production of pearly tints by light over dark, a crisp and solid under-painting is indispensable. It is undoubtedly possible to give this appearance [as the Venetians, [p. 366] according to Boschini, sometimes seem to have done, even after a solid beginning] at last, or when the work is advanced, and everything is in its place; but there is danger of some reluctance at that stage to disturb the effect, and to risk losing what has been attained in expression. But anything is better than ivory smoothness; sufficient crispness and ruggedness for glazing can, at all events, be secured; only remembering that what is soft, will be still softer by glazing.

Reynolds says that Titian's chief care was "to express the local colour, to preserve the masses of light and shade, and to give, by contrast, the idea of that solidity which is inseparable from natural objects." The preservation of masses of light and shade is one of the merits of the Venetian colourists, and it is difficult to understand how such a school can be said to be deficient in chiaroscuro. The suppression, or slight indication of markings in the light, gradually led to the suppression of dark shades in the flesh altogether, and, as if this was not enough, we frequently find a very light blond hair added. [The features, however, always tell.] The whole is then relieved by a strong and broad contrast of dark and sometimes cold masses, according to the tint of the flesh and drapery; the light, golden flesh is also sometimes accompanied by a white dress, and then the whole figure [with a few points of dark] is relieved against the equally massed ground. [Compare Zanetti, p. 218.] [p. 367]

It is in securing, [before toning,] the breadth of light in the flesh, that the scumbling system, or alternate scumbling and modeling, may beget too much smoothness, softness, and finish; all which will be still more undecided when glazing is added. It is therefore very necessary to keep, or renew, crisp lights; taking care to have as many abrupt passages as possible--[abrupt, that is, as to texture]. These should be carefully kept, as softness will take care of itself. The equality, or unbrokenness of intermediate passages of half-light, which may look unpleasantly finished in surface, will be sure to receive accidents from glazing. The point is to secure sufficient sharpness where sharpness should be.

This variety of mere surface can be greatly assisted by the vehicle, which of itself supplies substance, and does not obstruct crispness. A sparkling quality is one of the sources of brilliancy, and delicate modeling, in Venetian pictures. This is sometimes produced by beating, or stabbing, with the brush with white--[what is called in the Venetian dialect "botizar"]--and the same process, over a solid preparation, helps to give that equally granulated and mossy texture which is often observable both in flesh and draperies. But, it should always be remembered that such processes are only agreeable when superadded to a rougher, and more "colpeggiato" [touched] preparation. With regard to the more delicate sparkle which assists the [p. 368] finest modelling and the niceties of expression, its effect may be first tried by irregularly dotting, with white chalk, on the points or surfaces where its effect is desired. This same effect, when agreeable, can be produced by inserting--no matter whether accidentally or with intention, [provided the result be irregular] the same sparkle with points of white. An old worn brush is useful for the purpose. In such cases it is important that the points, or minute touches of white, should be solid. Their too great brilliancy can be obviated either by tinting upon them to a certain extent when dry; or by using much stiff vehicle, and counteracting its yellowing, as usual, by the purplish hue of the superadded light--but pure white may be used in this way also, and tinted afterwards. Thin, partial, and minute tintings of white, though useful in equalizing and solidifying, and in distributing minute greys [as they are always employed to stop out relative darks] are not calculated for the sparkling process; that can only be produced by solid, diamond-like, but irregular, and irregularly placed points and touches.

The "botizar" system is almost indispensable for producing breadth, without too much sacrificing modelling. Its equality, union, and finish, and its imperceptible gradations require to be sufficiently broken, either by the abruptness of the preparation, or by superadded sharpness, crispness, and definite sparkle. One mode of breaking its soft transitions, [p. 369] is by spottiness of local colour; for it should be remembered that whatever reason there may be, [in young subjects] for unbroken roundness, there is no such reason for softening colour, as in the cheeks or elsewhere: the more patchy and abrupt this can be, consistently with truth and the appearance of health, the better will it contrast with the soft gradations of the lights and half-tints. This is one of the points in which Titian is superior to Palma Vecchio. Paul Veronese never fails in it, nor in anything that belongs to briskness, or vivacity of execution. [pp. 366-370]



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