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Medium Well Done: 13 Paper and cardboard
The first paper-like sheets were made by the ancient Egyptians from papyrus, but it was the Chinese who discovered how to break plant fibres down to form sheets of what is recognisably paper. This knowledge came to Europe in the Middle Ages, by the eleventh century, and by the... Read more
Medium Well Done: 12 Stretched canvas
Linen and silk have been used as a support for paintings since ancient times, particularly in Egypt and China, where fabrics have been in greatest supply. Their first use in modern European painting seems to have been in the late Middle Ages, when painted banners became popular in churches,... Read more
Medium Well Done: 6 Oils
Since the decline of egg tempera as the preferred medium for easel paintings in the Renaissance, oil paints have dominated those used by professional painters. This is due to their longevity and versatility. When appropriate techniques are used, oil paintings readily survive over five hundred years, and are the... Read more
Medium Well Done: 5 Watercolour and gouache
Watercolour is the most inappropriately-named of the popular painting media. Oil paint uses drying oils as its binder, egg tempera uses the yolk of eggs, and glue tempera various types of glue. Water is, of course, not the binder in watercolour, but the diluent, used to turn blocks of... Read more
Peace and War: Paintings of François Flameng 2
Before the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, François Flameng (1856–1923) had been a highly successful portraitist, a painter of history, friend and travel companion to Jean-Léon Gérôme, Georges Clairin, Paul Helleu and John Singer Sargent. And he had painted one gruesome work showing a highly controversial episode... Read more
Peace and War: Paintings of François Flameng 1
Painters have to pay the bills too, and in the nineteenth century, with the traditional system of patronage on its way out, many of the best turned to portraiture. Those who succeeded in getting the rich and famous to queue at the door to their studio often made small... Read more
Landscape oil sketches from Valenciennes to Pissarro
Yesterday, I commemorated here the anniversary of the death of the landscape painter who made plein air oil sketching a part of standard practice, so paving the way for the transformations which occurred in the nineteenth century and after – Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes (1750–1819). This article looks at his... Read more
Teacher of John Singer Sargent, Edvard Munch, and more: Léon Bonnat
Look through the biographies of the great nineteenth century French painters, often those from the USA and other nations, and you’ll see familiar names appearing as their teachers. These include Léon Joseph Florentin Bonnat (1833–1922) and his teacher Léon Cogniet, who was in turn taught by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, whose... Read more
Carl Larsson: 1 Finding the idyllic family
Next week I will be commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the death of one of the twentieth century’s most popular artists, the Swedish painter Carl Larsson (1853-1919). From 1895 onwards, collections of his watercolours of life in his home were best-selling books throughout the Nordic countries and Germany. His... Read more
Detail, the painterly, and the abstract: 2 Examples from the Masters
In the first article in this pair, I proposed the hypothesis that all representational paintings appear chaotic, even abstract if you must, if you zoom into them closely enough. But as you zoom out you reach a point where their marks organise into an image which our brains see... Read more