Painting by artificial light -
It has been freely stated that Rembrandt painted in the daytime and made etchings at night, but the most casual acquaintance with his work would indicate that the converse would be as reasonably accurate an assertion. It is nonsense, but serves to predicate the prevalent idea that painting by artificial light is inadvisable because certain colours are affected thereby, losing intensity and thus destroying the chromatic balance of the picture. It should be born in mind in this connection, that pictures now are viewed and enjoyed almost exclusively at night, which is surely a good and sufficient reason for night painting.
David Cox considered that lamplight is broader in effect and often better and more pure in the colour of the tints.' He contrived to satisfy the conditions imposed by both natural and artificial light by painting pictures at night and applying the finishing touches in the morning.
Reynolds advocated the method. He said, I am much inclined to believe that it is a practice very advantageous and improving to an artist, for by this means he will acquire a new and a higher perception of what is beautiful in nature. By candle-light not only objects appear more beautiful, but from their being in a greater breadth of light and shadow, as well as having a greater breadth and uniformity of colour, nature appears in a higher style; and even the flesh seems to take a higher and richer tone of colour.' Titian and Correggio surely used candlelight, and Guercino formed his manner on its conception.'
There comes before me a vision of Michaelangelo in his old age, labouriously chiselling at a block of marble, a candle in his cap, thus passing the sleepless hours of the night.
Night painting, apart from its advantages, is an indication of enthusiasm for art, which an eitht-hour day could never comprehend. Gainsborough's love for painting led him to pursue its practice far into the night. He could not amuse himself so agreeably in the evenings by any other means. \\Many landscape painters have coloured their sketches by the light of a candle, but their memories are stored with the effects they depict, and they know what they have to do.
Turner coloured his sketches by the light of a candle, but his memory was stored with the effects he depicted, and all of them glowed with the light of day.
Painting should occupy the student in the long evenings. He should never be deterred by the fallacy that colours cannot be seen properly at night.
Historic Styles in water-colour -
The daily food and nourishment of the mind of an artist is found in the great works of his predecessors. Reynolds
The first water-colours that will repay consideration - the topographic drawings of the eighteenth century - were produced for the use of engravers. The subject was outlined with a reed pen, and tinted, or stained, with washes of colour. This technique has persisted to this day. Since the war it has enjoyed a sudden popularity, and has been adopted with amazing unanimity and enthusiasm by younger artists, many of whom declare, with the omniscience of youth, that it is the only true style. Its continuity is established by the work of Samuel Prout (1783 - 1852), whose subjects were largely architectural - tumble-down cottages, and streets containing relics of by-gone days, which were considered picturesque at that time solely on account of their antiquity - and were worked up from large pencil-drawings made on the spot. He coloured his drawings at his convenience, and elaborated them with a reed pen, using brown ink for the foreground, and blue for the distances (a concession to tone). He introduced figures - a deserted street is a pathetic sight - copying them from his sketch-book.
The use of sketch-book cannot be too strongly urged. It should be carried consistently and used frequently. Thus the sketcher will become alert in sensing scenes of interest, and skilled in recording them, and will steadily amass a quantity of material of immense value.
The technique of the stained drawing was described by Edward Dayes, who was Girtin's teacher in his Instructions for Drawing and Colouring Landscapes', quoted in Hugh Stokes' Girtin and Ronington'. The outline having been completed, The first and most easy way is to make all the shadows and middle-tints with Prussian Blue and a brown Indian ink; the clouds being sketched in, and, as light as possible, the student begins with the elementary part of the sky, laying it with Prussian Blue, rather tender, so as to leave himself the power of going over it once or twice afterwards, or as often as may be necessary; then, with the blue and a little Indian ink, lay in the lightest shades of the clouds, then the distance, if remote, with the same colour, rather stranger. Next proceed to the middle ground, leaving out the blue in coming forward, and lastly work up the foreground with brown Indian ink only. This operation may be repeated until the whole is sufficiently strong, marking the dark parts of the foreground as dark as the ink will make it - that is to say, the touches of the shadow in shade. Great care must be taken to leave out the blue gradually as the objects come forward, otherwise it will have a bad effect. Attention must also be given to the middle tints so that they are not marked too strong, which would make it, when coloured, look hard. The same gray colour, or aerial tint, may be first washed over every terrestrial part of the drawing required to be kept down - that is, before colouring - as colour laid over the gray will, of course, not be so light as when the paper is without it. The shadows and middle tints being worked up to a sufficient degree of power, colouring will be the next operation. This must be done by beginning in the distant parts, coming on stronger and stronger, colouring light and middle tint to the foreground, and lastly retouch the darker parts of the foreground with Vandyck brown. Great caution will be required not to disturb the shadows with colour, otherwise the harmony of the whole will be destroyed, or, at any rate, not to do more than gently to colour the reflections.'
Girtin used a reed pen to accent objects in the foreground, but not in the conventional manner of the topographer. He reversed the process, and used his pen at the last, over the colour. The pencil-line, with which he began a water-colour, merely indicated the position and perhaps the area of the principal parts. He did not outline form with his pencil; nor did he necessarily commit himself to the lines he drew. They are often visibly abandoned.
The effects Girtin produced by wiping out' intrigued his contemporaries, who sought to imitate them. Some thought that the method was that of stopping out' instead of wiping out, and colourmen sold a preparation called Girtin's Stopping-out Mixture'. Actually the method consisted of painting with clean water over the area of dry pigment required to be removed, and rubbing with bread, clean rag, or soft eraser, when nearly dry. Thus the softened underpainting comes away easily and cleanly.
Peter De Wint, according to Mr. A. W. Rich, came nearer to painting perfect pictures than any man who ever lived. He developed Girtin's style. In his day many more pigments were in use. None of these painters, however, enjoyed the advantages of moist colours put up in pans or tubes. They were obliged to use hard cakes of pigment, which had to be rubbed in water on a porcelain slab, and the indigo bag. They were known officially as draughtsmen, not as artists, and few of them escaped the fate of teaching for a living. Their paintings sold for very small sums. Cox sold some of his sketches for seven shillings each; Prout's went for a guinea.
The veneration with which Claude and Richard
Wilson were regarded by the landscape painters of that period
- the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries - is astonishing
in view of the fact that the former expounded the conventionalism
of the classical school, and the latter strove to free themselves
from its shackles. They saw in these masters the expressions of
genius, and were carried on the wave of progress unconscious of
defection. Constable copied Claude assiduously, but he spoke of
Turner when he described a picture as the most complete work of
genius he ever saw.
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