colour colours water painters light artists practice little employed pigments
PAINTING. A general examination of the place of painting among the FINE ARTS will be found under that heading. The main ScnooLs OF PAINTING (q.v.) will form the subject of a separate article. For the history of the art, see also ARCHEOLOGY (CLASSICAL) and the notices of individual painters. The present article is limited to a few practical notes on the methods of painting in oil and water colour, other methods being dealt with under the headings ENAMEL, ENCAUSTIC PAINTING, FRESCO, and TEMPERA.
Painting-Room.--The painting-room or atelier should be of sufficient dimensions to allow the artist space to retire from his work, if it is on a scale large enough to require viewing from a distance. For large decorative paintings the room must be spacious. The size and altitude of the window is of great importance. If the opening is contracted, the light and shade on the model will be broad and intense, and the colouring sombre, especially in the shadows, if abundance of light is admitted, the tendency will be more towards brightness and purity. Painters generally prefer a window with a northern or eastern aspect.
The painting-room has a great influence in determining not only the effects in the works of individual artists, but the characteristics of whole schools. Leonardo da Vinci was among the first to show pAtiality to indoor effects and deep shadows. Correggio, the artists of the Bolognese school, Caravaggio, Spagnoletto, and other Neapolitan and Spanish painters followed; the Dutch painter Rembrandt perhaps carried these extreme contrasts of light and shade to the greatest length. The effects thus obtained are, however, more or less artificial, and very unlike the ordinary aspect of the open daylight face of nature.
Painters, unless there happens to be some special reason to the contrary, usually work with the light to the left to prevent the shadow cast from the brush falling inwards. Some artists who seek to represent open air effects paint from their models in glass-houses, specially constructed for the purpose. The practice has much to recommend it, the diffused light enabling them to approximate more nearly to the truth of nature.
Implements used in Painting. - The easel is a frame, or rest, which supports the picture during its progress. Easels are of various kinds : - the triangular, supplied with pegs for the adjustment of the height of the work ; the square, or rack easel, which is much more convenient ; and the French studio easel, having a screw at the back and worked by a handle in the front, by which arrange- ment pictures of considerable size and weight can be raised or lowered or inclined forward with great ease. There is also a variety of light portable easels used for out-door sketching. - The palette is the board on which the colours are arranged to paint from ; it is usually either of an oval or oblong square form, of light-coloured wood, and, to avoid inconvenience being felt from its weight, it should be thin and well balanced on the thumb. It ought to be kept clean and the colour never allowed to dry on it. - The palette-knife has a pliable blade, and is used for arranging the colours on the palette, mixing tints, &c. With some painters it not unfrequently takes the place of the brush in the application of colour. - The larger kinds of bruskes are made of hog-hair. They are either round or flat, but the latter are generally preferred, though for some purposes round ones are found to be useful. Brushes are also made of sable ; these should have the property of coming to a fine point when required. Brushes of badger's hair are used for " softening " or "sweetening," - that is, blending the colours by sweeping lightly to and fro over them while freshly laid (a practice to be avoided as much as possible). , Brushes should be carefully washed after use, either in spirits of turpentine or with soap and tepid water, dried, and the hairs laid smooth with the finger and thumb. A brush in which the colour has been allowed to dry is difficult to clean, and is much injured, if not rendered entirely useless, by such negligence. Not a little depends on the good condition in which the brushes are kept. - The mald-stiek is used to steady the hand while painting details. It is held in the left hand, and the end of the stick, properly wadded, rests on the canvas. It should be light and firm. The old painters never used the mall-stick when working on large pictures, and many artists dispense with it altogether. Rubens mentions being obliged to have recourse to one in his old age. - The dais or throne is a platform varying from a foot to 18 inches in height. Portrait painters, and artists who generally stand while at work, find it desirable to have the sitter or model nearly on a level with the eye. - A mirror hung in a convenient place in the painting-room will be found of great use. It enables the artist to detect faults in drawing to which he might otherwise be blinded from too long gazing at his work. The picture is seen in the mirror reflected in reverse, and errors consequently appear greater than they really are. - The lay-figure, a wooden or stuffed doll, usually life-size, is _very serviceable in painting elaborate dresses and draperies. The best kinds are so constructed that they can be made to assume and retain any posture. Fra Bartolommeo first brought the lay-figure into use.
Materials used in Painting. - These consist of canvases, prepared panels and null-boards, oils, varnishes, and colours.
O-ils and Iarnishes. - The introduction of oil painting on the modern methods dates from the time of Jeln Van Eyck. This artist introduced a varnish, probably composed of linseed or nut oil mixed with seine resinous substance, which was more siceative than the oil vehicles previously in use, and possessed the property of drying without exposure to the sun or to artificial heat. The oil painting of the early Flemish masters was, strictly speaking, (oil) varnish painting : an oleo-resinous substance, such as amber varnish, was mixed with the colours, and rendered final varnishing unnecessary. The Venetian painters also adopted this vehicle. The term "vehicle" is borrowed from pharmacy. In art it is applied to the fluid used for bringing the pigments into a proper working state. Painters differ greatly as to the vehicles they employ : some use oil only ; others peculiar compounds of their own, made of linseed, poppy, or walnut oils, copal or amber varnishes, drying oil and mastic, &c. Siccatif, a medium specially prepared for oil painting, is now largely used ; mixed with spirits of wine, it forms a beautiful transparent varnish.
The discoveries of modern chemistry have added largely to the simple list of colours known to the old filasters:but perhaps with little advantage to their successors, for their is much truth in the maxim that "the shortest way to good colouring is through a simple palette." Pliny asserts that the ancient Greek painters employed but four colours in their works.
A large proportion of colours, such as the ochres, vermilion, ultramarine, &c., is derived from minerals; indigo, madder, gamboge, &c., from vegetable, and carmine, Indian yellow, sepia, &c., from animal substances. The artificial or chemical preparations include Prussian blue, Naples yellow, zinc white, French blue, cobalt, the lakes, &c.
The natural or true pigments are prepared for use by calcining and washing, and for oil painting are ground up in poppy or linseed oils. With two or three exceptions the pigments derived from the mineral kingdom are the most permanent, especially those containing iron or copper. Those derived from animal and vegetable substances have less permanence, but they form an important acquisition to the palette, as they not unfrequently possess a purity and brilliancy of colour which makes it almost impossible to dispense with them.
Colours are opaque or transparent. The former, on account of their solidity and opacity, are employed to represent light. For shadows and glazing transparent pigments are used. Yellow, red, and blue cannot be composed, and are called primary colours. The union of two of these in the three combinations of which alone they admit produces secondary colours. White represents light, and in oil painting the only white pigment used is white lead, prepared with great care. The ochres are the most permanent yellows. Their composition is very variable, but they may be considered true chemical combinations of clay and oxide of iron. The native ochres are yellow and red. By calcination the yellow ochres become red. Other yellows are prepared from arsenic, lead, and vegetable substances. Iron is the great colouring principle of red in nature. All the three kingdoms - mineral, animal, and vegetable - contribute to the red pigments. The first supplies vermilion and the red ochres ; the second carmine, obtained from the cochineal insect ; the third the madder pigments. The principal blue pigments are ultramarine (native and artificial), cobalt, small, Prussian blue, and indigo. Ultramarine is the only pure primary colour ; the finer specimens have neither a tinge of green on the one hand nor of purple on the other. It is obtained from the mineral lazulite or lapis-lazuli, and is probably a volcanic product, as it resists the action of fire. Its scarcity, and consequent high price, have produced many artificial imitations. These are of many qualities. The inferior are used in paper staining, the finer alone being reserved for artists' use. Cobalt is now prepared in a state of great purity, but it has the objection of appearing violet in artificial light, In " guides to oil painting long lists of pigments are generally given ; but these serve only to perplex and embarrass. About a dozen colours, judiciously chosen, will be quite sufficient to supply the palette.
Processes and ,Wanipulations. - There are various technical distinctions in the modes of applying the colours to a picture in its successive stages. (ilazin-y is the laying of thinly transparent colours, dilated with a considerable quantity of vehicle, which allows the work beneath to appear distinctly through, but tinged with the colour of the glaze. The Venetian painters, Titian especially, largely employed this process, advancing their pictures as far as possible with solid, opaque colour, and upon this ground glazing repeatedly the richest and purest colours. The process of glazing is generally effected by the application of diluted transparent colour, but semi-transparent colours are also used when rendered sufficiently transparent by the admixture of a large proportion of vehicle. When carried to excess, the result is a " horny " impure dulness of surface and a heavy and dirty tone of colour. Much practice and experience are required for its proper performar.ce. Scumbling resembles glazing in that a very thin coat is spread lightly over portions of the work, but the colour used is opaque instead of transparent. A hog-hair brush sparingly charged with the tint is employed. Carried to excess, scumbliQ,g produces a " smoky " appearance. Impasting is the term applied to laying colours in thick masses on the lights. The shadows or dark portions of a picture are painted thinly and transparently, the lights solidly, with opaque colours. Impasting gives " texture " and " surface " to the latter, and helps to produce the appearance of roundness and relief. When carried too far it produces an appearance of coarseness and affords a lodgment for dirt and varnish in what should be the brightest and purest passages in the colouring.
Irregularities of surface in such passages of a picture as it may be desirable to repaint are removed by using an instrument especially made for the purpose ; but an old razor, an ordinary pocket-knife, or a piece of window glass, properly broken, will, in skilful hands, answer the purpose equally well. This process should not be attempted till the colour to be removed has hardened, otherwise the pigment will tear off and leave the surface in a condition which it will be found difficult to remedy.
It is the practice of some artists to lay the colours at first cold and pale, gradually strengthening the light and shade, and enforcing the colour in subsequent paintings. When this practice is adopted, the colours used should be as few and as simple as possible. It sometimes happens that considerable portions of the first painting are apparent through all the subsequent processes, and this early part of the work should he done with great care and judgment.
The first principle in the application of paint is to-avoid unnecessary mixing, or, as it is called, " troubling " or saddening the tints, the result of which is a waxy surface and muddiness of colour. When this is avoided the touches are clear and distinct, but when the principle is carried to excess it degenerates into manner ; or it may serve as a convenient screen for the want of accurate observation and thorough execution.
Among the masters most remarkable for precision and rapidity of handling are Velazquez, Tintoretto, Veronese, and Itubens. The execution of Leonardo da Vinci is laboured. Vanderwerf, Mengs, and Donner are also instances of laboured smoothness. The three last-named belong to a class designated "the polishers," - " little men, who did not see the whole at a time, but only parts of a whole, and thus vainly essayed to make up the whole by a smooth union of parts."
No two artists employ the same method in painting. Some attain the result aimed at by involved and complicated, others by direct and simple methods. The difference in tecknipte between the work of an English artist and artists trained in French or German ateliers may be seen at a glance, and it is of little use attempting to lay down hard and fast rules on the subject. Even among the great Italian painters a wide variety of practice existed. It has been pretty well ascertained, partly from unfinished works, that Titian's method was to work out the effect of his pictures, as far as possible, with pure white, red, and black, the shadows being left cold. To prevent the yellowing of the oil, and to harden the colour, the picture was exposed to the sun, months were sometimes allowed to elapse, and then the surface of this dead or first colouring was rubbed down with pumice stone and fresh colours and the glazings applied, a considerable period - during which the picture was exposed to the sun - elapsing between successive applications of colour. Titian is said to have been very partial to the use of his fingers when laying on paint, particularly on flesh and glazings.
The practice of Paul Veronese was quite opposed to that of Titian. He sought almost the full effect al, once by direct means and simple mixture of tints, seldom repeating his colours, and using few glazings. When the work was well advanced in this way he covered the whole with a thin coat of varnish to bring up the colours, and then retouched the lights and enforced the shadows with dexterous touches.
It is said of Reynolds, who spent half his life in experiments, that in order to discover their technical secrets he deliberately scraped away and destroyed Venetian pictures of value. The decay of so many of his works shows with how little success these experiments were rewarded.
Numerous "guides to oil painting" exist, but little real instruction or benefit is to be gained from their perusal. They abound in minute directions how to paint "trunks of trees, heaths, fields, roads, skies (grey, blue, and stormy), sunsets, sunrises, running streams and waterfalls, mountains, the smoke or steam of steamers, and chimneys of cottages," as well as "heads, flesh, backgrounds, draperies (blue, red, and black)," with lists of the proper colours to be employed for each. All this, it is hardly needful to say, is worse than useless. The surest and safest way for any one who intends to study painting seriously, or to make it his profession, is to place himself under the instruction of an artist of repute, either in his own country or in some foreign atelier ; but, even after acquiring a sound technical knowledge of the processes employed in painting, it will be found that much remains to learn which no master can teach. It is said of Velazquez that "he discovered that nature herself is the artist's best teacher, and industry his surest guide to perfection, and he very early resolved neither to sketch nor to colour any object without having the thing itself before him."
Water-Colour Paintiny. - The use, in painting, of earths and minerals of different colours, diluted with water, is of great antiquity. Painting with oils or oleo-resinous vehicles is a comparatively modern invention. Tempera, encaustic, and fresco were ancient modes of water painting. Several of the early Dutch and Flemish oil painters attained to considerable technical excellence in the separate practice of water-colour painting ; little more than simple washings of water colour were employed by them, the processes which have in modern times so greatly raised and extended its scope being then unknown.
Painting in water colour owes much of its development to English artists, and may be regarded as a peculiarly national school of art. The first English water-colour painter of note, Paul Sandby, used Indian ink in the earlier stages of his drawings, finishing them with a few tints of thin colour. At this period paintings in water colour were little more than flat washes, and in the early catalogues of the Royal Academy Exhibition were designated " water-tinted" or " water-washed drawings." improvements were gradually effected, first by varying the ground-work tint with blue and sepia, over which washes of colour, commencing with a warm generalizing tint, were struck. John Cozens was the first to substitute a mixture of indigo and Indian red in place of Indian ink as a neutral tint in the early stages of his work, a practice which was long retained. The,old water-colour painters used the lead pencil or the reed pen in finishing their drawings. The first to break away from this conventional method was Girtin, who painted objects at once with the tints they appeared to possess in nature. Turner, perhaps the greatest master of the art, was closely associated with Girtin in early life, and in the course of his long career he carried water-colour painting to a degree of perfection which can scarcely be surpassed. Nearly all the great improvements which have taken place of late years in water-colour painting are due more or less to him. John Lewis, De Vint, Prout, Hunt, Cox, Harding, and Copley Fielding have all contributed to the development of the art.
Materials used in Water-Colou• Painting.-1. Paper. - A great variety of papers is used, varying in texture from the extreme of roughness to hot-pressed smoothness. In many of Turner's drawings the paper is tinted. Nothing, however, seemed to come amiss to him ; papers of almost any surface or texture were used. David Cox, in many of his later works, employed a rough paper made from old sailcloth. The paper most generally used is known as " Imperial," and is made of various degrees of texture and thickness. Whatman's papers are also much esteemed.
The proper sizing of the paper is of great importance ; if it is too strongly done the colours will not float or work freely, if too little they are absorbed into the fabric and appear poor and dead. In this last case, gum-arabic dissolved in warm water will improve the effect by bringing up the colour and giving greater depth and richness of tone. The paper is prepared to receive the drawing by being well sponged and stretched upon a drawing-board.
painters the use of opaque or " body " colour was generally considered illegitimate. Turner was the first to break through this restraint, and since his time the use of opaque colour has been carried perhaps to excess, many modern artists wilfully resigning much of the peculiar freshness and brilliancy of pure water colour for the sake of rivalling the richness and depth of oil painting.
Perhaps as great a variety of practice exists among water-colour painters as among those working in oils ; each arrives at his own peculiar method by the teaching of experience. As in the case of oil painting, it would serve little purpose if the attempt was made to lay down rules and methods. All men cannot be painters, and a knowledge of the nature of the materials and of the processes employed does not necessarily carry with it ability to paint. Such essentials as a knowledge of composition, drawing, light and shade, and colour are all requisite, and these can only be obtained after Years of study. If possible the guidance of some good master should be sought for at first ; this will shorten the way and prevent the making of some awkward mistakes. (G. RE.)