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 - Oiling Out

In painting the human figure, the refinements of expression and the perfect anatomical modelling of parts in subordination to general roundness, suppose, [p. 339] at least in some stage of the work, great nicety of execution and great delicacy of manipulation. Whether this can be accompanied with evident freedom or not, there should, at least, be no appearance of labour. If the touch cannot be light and varied, it should not be apparent at all. There is no danger of extreme minuteness in the solid painting, nor in the transparent shades. In the first the bright preparation may consist of few and simple colours, and as there can be no fear of sullying such colours, even in the lowest half-tints, there can be no temptation to a timid handling. In the shades also, if inserted once for all in a transparent state, on the Flemish system, any approach to minuteness of touch [except where mere lines are required] can be obviated by sweeping lightly over such touches with a broad soft brush; and if, on the other hand, the shades are painted more solidly, to be afterwards glazed, the method presents no more difficulty than that adopted in the lights, answering to that produced by the Italian "sfumino." The degree of minuteness lies rather in the final retouchings and scumblings with a view to truth of modeling and tinting, and the evil is best obviated by glazing, or at least oiling out [and removing the superfluous oil] before beginning these more delicate operations. For if such operations are attempted on a dry surface, the scale of the work being small, a greater or less amount of stippling is the almost unavoidable consequence. No spreading and softening [p. 340] with the "sfumino." overcomes this quite, because many minute [hollow] portions of the surface remain dry, and present an untoned contrast with the rest. The previous glazing or oiling out may therefore be considered indispensable, before the more delicate work in question is commenced. The method is indeed recommended by Armenini, and was no doubt adopted by the Italian painters generally. The retouchings on a dry surface, which the Venetians perhaps almost exclusively employed, were always bold, and are not to be confounded with the final scumblings and glazings above referred to. The system of impinging sparkling lights, and even insulated darks, was rather a completion of the abrupt, crisp preparation before the finer union of the parts was attended to. That finer union, with the Venetians, as with all other painters, Italian or Flemish, was, and can only be duly accomplished, so as to avoid the appearance of labour on the one hand or spottiness on the other, by working on a moistened surface with finely ground tints. It rests with the artist to use, in this stage of the work, an ordinary thin vehicle or an oil varnish with his tints; for such literally alternate operations the Italians, and even the Venetians, frequently used the oil varnish. This, when employed profusely, as in Titian's St. Sebastian [Vatican}, no doubt superseded the necessity of a final varnish, at least for many years. It appears probable that the oil varnish was then used abundantly [p. 341] in the last general glazings and scumblings in large altar pictures, which were to be sometimes exposed to damp, and at all events to great varieties of temperature in churches; while, for works of less extent and intended for other situations, the surface, being less protected, [in consequence of a less robust vehicle having been used], immediately required the essential-oil varnish, which served to protect, as well as to bring out the colours. [pp 339-. 342]



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