Historical Painting Techniques, Material and Studio Practice

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The history of painting techniques is a fascinating topic and art historians have done a great deal of research on the topic about the materials, techniques, and methods used by artists over the years. There are a number of ways to get information about painting techniques, like the physical or chemical analyses of the materials used in the paintings. These analyses help in building a history of different Historical Painting Techniques, Material and Studio Practice.Have you ever thought about the question “how did editors edit photos in 20th century when there was no Photoshop”. Prior to Photoshop and the host of image editing apps, people did edit photos. So how did they do it? Let us find out.

Historical Painting Techniques, Material and Studio Practice

Documentary Sources

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The technical literature in the 19th century on oil painting materials and practices proved to be a valuable source of information. Various kinds of information could be derived from these documentary sources:

Painter’s Environment:

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Sometimes a painter’s environment would reveal information about the material and technique used. For example, the buildup of dirt between paint layer could be interpreted for past conditions of lighting and heating. Coal used to heat London in the 1700s would lead to a “Tartanous Smoak” that left its imprint everywhere. The absence of central heating also played a role, as paint would not dry easily and painters need to add materials to speed up the drying process.

Beliefs:

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Certain views and beliefs influenced the artists. They believed that using the same resin in the paint medium as was used in the final varnish, would reduce the chances of cracking.

The Past is Different:

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If fugitive colors were identified in a painting, it did not necessarily mean that an artist had knowingly used paints that would fade. In the 19th century, the name of a color did not always provide its composition. This is one important factor to keep in mind while we talk about Historical Painting Techniques, Material and Studio Practice.

Study of Painting Techniques

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The study of general techniques and of an individual artist’s techniques is important because:

  • It helps in the authentication process and also in establishing a timeline for a particular artist’s works.
  • Due to the lack of extensive documentary sources, systematic art research is an important to find out about the painting techniques.
  • Conservators in museums, rely on studying the techniques of the past to conserve and restore paintings.

17th Century Italian Painting Techniques

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In the 17th century in Italy, two camps of painting emerged: One camp described the object itself, while the other camp described the object’s impression on the beholder. The use of varnish was a method for adding strength and softness to the paintings. Many of the samples taken from paintings of central Italy in the period between 1600 – 1800 show that chalk was present. It was used to combat the problem of overabsorbent grounds.  This is surely a key parameter one keeps in mind while talking about Historical Painting Techniques, Material and Studio Practice

French Painting Techniques from 1600 – 1800

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Guilds regulated painting in France till the middle of the 17th century and the skills were handed down from master to apprentice and closely guarded against outsiders. The information about French painting techniques came from books of secrets which were recipe collections from various authors. Oil painting was prevalent in 17th century France and different methods were used:

  • Encaustic Painting
  • Eludoric Painting
  • Glass and glass transfer

Use of Verdigris and Copper Resinate

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Verdigris and copper resinate have been used in paintings in the medieval times as well as the 18th century. Verdigris had the most intense green color and was made by exposing copper strips to vinegar vapor. A lot of experimentation was done with verdigris, to see which form of it lasted the most.

Romanesque and Goth Techniques

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Historical-Painting-Techniques-Material-and-Studio-Practice

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Two very different techniques come to light for Romanesque and Gothic paintings. Romanesque paintings used extra proteinaceous binding medium and lead pigments. Gothic paintings primarily used carbonation of lime, along with large plaster patches, organic binding media, and other pigments.

Studies into other historical periods and geographical regions reveal more interesting historical painting techniques, material and studio practices.

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