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 - Treatment of Green & Blue

1. A neutral grey preparation being duly lighted up and modelled, without bluish low tones, and with brown only, or preparation for it, the darker shades--vivid green tints, not, however, of the bluish kind, are passed thinly over the half-tints, the lights being left. The modelling may be assisted by darkening or lightening the green middle tint, but the higher lights are, more or less, untouched. [p. 334] When dry, the whole is glazed with a rich brown--the precise kind, [whether semi-opaque, or dark orange-like, ut scis, or perfectly transparent of the same or of a browner tint] depending on experiment.

2. The only difference in the second mode is to slightly glaze the whole grey preparation with a warm brown at first, and, either at once, or better, when this glazing is dry, to insert the green middle tints in the mode above described. The vehicle for such rich operations had better be the usual Italian glazing vehicle.

The question now is whether blues, light or intense, might not be prepared in the same way. In the first place the method, No. 2, above noticed, is the only one that would answer in such a case. The grey, well modelled, and somewhat sharp preparation, with brisk lights, very brilliant or not, according to the colour required, with half-tints not too bluish, and with brown in the intensest darks--this grey preparation, when dry, is first glazed with a rich orange-like brown. When dry, [and here this is essential] the blue middle tints are inserted in various degrees of strength, so as to assist the modelling. The lights are as yet left, and may be altogether left in certain blues--in which case they present, by contrast, a broken, mellow, dusky orange-tint to the blue middle tints--a rich deep brown succeeding in the intensest shades, and sometimes [as [p. 335] there are examples in Titian] in reflexions. The crudeness of the blue, if striking, may be ultimately modified by glazing.

But, if the blue be required to be very deep, the preparation corresponding, the lights are entirely covered with the blue tints [though not the deepest shades, which are supposed to be, partially at least, as dark as possible]. In this operation, therefore, much depends on showing enough of the glazed and warm preparation through the blue, especially in the lights and in the lower tones, for, in the middle tints, the blue may be most powerful. In this again a final toning may be required.

In repeated operations, such as those above described, it is not necessary to oil out when the dry surface is dull--as in glazing a brown over the solid preparation [which preparation , if properly executed, will present a perfectly dull surface], previous sponging being all that is required. But, after it has received the brown glazing, the surface will probably be more or less glossy, and, in inserting the blue on that surface after it is dry, it will be better to oil out--taking care to remove the oil afterwards with a linen rag till it scarcely leaves a trace on the cloth.

If this treatment of blue for draperies should prove satisfactory [as it certainly answers in greens], it would also be found that skies, and blue mountains, and distances might be treated in the same way, and thus the same system would be [p. 336] used throughout. The forms of the sky being modelled, and the place of the blue, or portions of the blue, being indicated by a light grey [but not bluish] middle tint--the whole, when dry, may be lightly glazed with a warm brown, the portions which are to be blue being well warmed. When dry, oil out as above, and insert the blue, allowing the ground to be partially seen though in the places intended for it; varying its depth of course as required, and as already indicated in the preparation, and toning finally, if necessary.

In landscape, generally, the forms may be defined and the lights impinged with the grey middle tint lightened with white; still avoiding too bluish a grey in the lower tones. When dry, glaze first with brown, and then insert [the surface being dry] the local broken colours--masses of green, of brownish, yellowish, greyish, &c.--leaving the warm ground under and amidst the cold colours, and occasionally reviving and increasing the grey undertint in the midst of warm colours. The whole are toned at last, more especially the greens and blues--the only tints which, in a landscape, are in danger of being crude.

With regard to reviving the grey preparation, this was evidently a frequent resource with the colourists; the only difference being that the grey produced over a more or less finished and warmed surface may be a dynamic grey--that is, a cool tint produced by scumbling thinly a light tint over [p. 337] a dark. Still, the same grey may be employed, only it should be spread more thinly. Occasionally, however, it may be solidly touched over the finished portion and toned again as required.

This system is also observable in the practice of the colourists in flesh painting. It is not a regularly calculated system, or rather, the system, however well calculated, rarely "runs smooth" through all the operations; remedies are resorted to, and they consist in restoring comparative light and coolness where required, to be again toned and harmonized with the rest of the work.

The darkest shadows, or, at all events, very forcible shadows, may be improved in tint, when required, by the same means: the grey then used is not a violently light colour, nor does it really border on blueness; that it will appear light and cold, when so applied, is however certain, and it should be so contrived that the patched portion is not violently offensive even before it is glazed.

Untrue half-tints and depths may be rectified in the same way: they should be first scumbled [botteggiando] with a neutral grey, duly removed from blueness. If the passage to be rectified be sufficiently light, it may then be toned so as to harmonize with the rest of the work.

As the depth of light golden, or warm-coloured hair is prepared with this grey, so the same grey may also be used as the preparation for the depth of gold; for, when warmed by the right glazing [p. 329] colour, [no matter whether semi-opaque or transparent,--better semi-opaque at first] it expresses the true depth of gold. In some pictures the lights appear to have been at first indicated by white, or a tint slightly removed from it, such lights being covered with opaque [that is, semiopaque because thin] light yellow at last. Other painters have taken a shorter course, but, in the works of all colourists, a balance of warm and cold has been by some means or other preserved in the minutest, as well as in the largest portions.

In repeated operations the principle, therefore, seems to be neutrality upon colour, and colour upon neutrality. The only exceptions are blue and green, which require to be inserted on a surface apparently the opposite color. Lastly, purple is the representative and index of opacity; when treated as a transparent colour it is most agreeable when it has more lake than blue. A deep transparent violet is found in works of the Ferrarese and Milanese painters, but never in those of the Venetians. The purples or lilacs of the Venetians are always opaque, and appear as half-lights, never as transparent intense darks, and never as high lights. [pp. 334-339]



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