Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Catechism on the Practice of Painting in Oil

Around 1817, William A. Pinnock, a former schoolmaster, decided to publish a series of cheap educational works in the form of question and answer books.  Among the first of these was A Catechism on the Practice of Painting in Oil, With Some Account of the Nature of Fresco Painting - Painting on Glass - Enamel - Encaustic - and Crayon Painting.  It was quite an ambitious book, especially considering that it was only 3 X 5 inches in size, and contained only 77 pages, but it did in fact offer some useful, historical methods for art making, and for only 9 pence, it was a bargain.

Pinnock was not alone in producing these economical manuals in 18th century England;  several of London's larger colourmen also put out these little gems, hoping to entice more people to purchase their ready-made products.  Reeves and Sons, Messrs. Massoul and Co., and Rowney, Dillon, and Rowney (Daler-Rowney) put out artist companion books, and Winsor & Newton produced many of their "yellow shilling books," in a wide variety of topics, reprinting several of them all the way into the twentieth century.

What is more, the information was very consistent, but perhaps this should be no surprise - several of the same booklets were printed by competing colourmen at the same time; some were reprinted and reprinted for decades, but each edition was credited to a different author though the information remained the same;  some were just plagiarized.

For Pinnock, who was not an artist, his source material was a book by Thomas Bardwell printed in 1756.  Very few changes were made from the original, and in some places, whole paragraphs were copied intact from the earlier tome.  And though Pinnock's Catechism on the Practice of Oil Painting was lat printed in 1840 (5th ed.), Bardwell's instructions were adapted again and again by various authors afterwards.  This means that Bardwell's technique was being taught, at least in written form, for nearly 150 years.

From William A. Pinnock's Catechism on the Practice of Oil Painting:

Q.  What is the method of preparing the palette, or the arrangement of the colours?
A.  The preparation of the palette depends on the subject to be painted;  whether of the flesh, drapery, or other substances.  For general use the colours may be placed in the following order:  white, yellows in their several degrees, lake, vermilion, light red, Indian red, burnt sienna, umber, Vandyke brown, black, and Prussian blue.  These colours may be ranged on the far side of the palette;  the white nearest the thumb. 
From these colours you make your tints, or degrees, by mixing white with the original colour.  These degrees should be three in number, and are called light, shade, and middle tint.

Q.  What are the principal colours used in painting flesh? 
A. These must depend on the nature of the complexion.  Those for general use are, 
Flake white,
Yellow oker,
Light red,
Indian red,
Ivory black,
Ultra-marine, and
Prussian blue 
(to these may be added burnt umber, and burnt and raw sienna) 
The last mentioned colour (Prussian blue) must be used with great caution;  and only for greenish or olive tints found in some complexions.  From these colours the principal tints are made. 
Light red tint is made of light red and white, and is the best colour for the general ground of flesh.  It is apt to grow darker than when it is first laid on, and therefore must be allowed for. 
Yellow tint is sometimes made with Naples yellow and white;  but, for general use, yellow oker and white.  This tint, also, will grow darker with time. 
Vermilion and white mixed to a middle tint. 
Lake, white and vermilion, used chiefly for the cheeks and lips. 
Blue tint is made of ultra-marine and white, mixed to lightish azure.  With it the gradations should be blended:  following the yellows it produces greenish blue, and, with the reds, it inclines to purple. 
Lead, or grey tint, is black and white mixed to a middle degree.  This tint is very useful in gradations and in the eye. 
Olive, or green tint, may be made of black, white, and yellow, with a small portion of blue, as the nature of the complexion may require. 
Shade tint, black, white, Indian red, and lake, mixed to a middle tint.  This is the best tone for the ground colour of shadows. 
Red shade is nothing but Indian red and lake. 
Warm shade is lake, a little black, and burnt or raw sienna. 
Dark shade is made of ivory black and Indian red.  This colour mixes kindly with the red shade, and agreeably with the middle tints;  it is an excellent colour for the shadows, and one of the finest working colours we have.

In Bardwell's original, the flesh colors were slightly different.  Pinnock left out carmine and brown pink, and relegated burnt umber to a supplemental color.  Bardwell did not list burnt and raw sienna in his flesh colors at all.

Bardwell's descriptions were more in depth than were Pinnock's, but Pinnock, because of modernization, was often easier to follow.  In The Practice of Painting, Bardwell described his palette layout as follows:

1.  Light Red Teint is made of Light Red and White:  It is the most kind and best conditioned of all Colours, for the general Ground of the Flesh.  With this Colour, and the Shade-Teint, we should make out all the Flesh, like Claro Obscuro, or Mezzotinto.  We should also remember, that this Colour will grow darker;  because it is in Nature too strong for the White;  therefore we should improve it;  that is, mix some Vermilion and White with it, in proportion to the Fairness of the Complexion:  And tho' it is thus mixed, yet I shall call it the Light-red Teint in all the Course of the Work;  because I would not have the Vermilion Teint confounded with it, as if there was no Difference. 
2.  Vermilion Teint is only Vermilion and White, mixed to a middle Teint:  It is the most brilliant Light-red that can be:  It agrees best with White, Light-red, and Yellow Teints.
3.  Carmine Teint is Carmine and White only, mixed to a middle Teint:  It is of all Colours the most beautiful Red that can be for the Cheeks and Lips:  It is one of the finishing Colours, and should never be used in the First Painting, but laid upon the finishing Colours, without mixing. 
4.  Rose Teint is made of the Red Shade and White, mixed to a middle Degree, or lighter:  It is one of the cleanest and most delicate Teints that can be used in the Flesh, for cleaning up heavy dirty Colours: and therefore, in changing, will sympathize and mix kindly. 
5.  Yellow Teint is often made of Naples Yellow and White;  but I make it of light Oker and White, which is a good working Colour.  Remember the Oker is too strong for the White;  therefore we should make a little Allowance in using it.  It follows the Light-red Teints, and should always be laid before the Blues.  If we lay too much of it, we may recover the Ground it was laid on with the Light-red Teints. 
6.  Blue Teint is made of Ultramarine and White, mixed to a lightish Azure:  It is a pleasant working Colour:  With it we should blend the Gradations.  It follows the Yellows;  and with them it makes the Greens;  and with the Red it produces the Purples.  No Colour is so proper for blending down, or softening the Lights into keeping. 
7.  Lead Teint is made of Ivory-Black and fine White, mixed to a middle Degree:  It is a fine retiring Colour;  and therefore is of great USe in the Gradations, and in the Eyes. 
8.  Green Teint is made of Prussian, light Oker, and White:  This Colour will dirty the Lights, and should be laid sparingly in the middle Teints.  It is most used in the Red Shadows, where they are too strong.  It is of a dirty antipathizing Nature. 
9.  Shade-Teint is made of Lake, Indian Red, Black, and White, mixed to a beautiful Murrey Colour of a middle Teint:  This is the best Colour for the general Ground of Shadows:  for which Reason I call it the Shade Teint:  It mixes with the Lights delightfully, and produces a pleasant clean Colour, a little incline to the redish Pearl.  As all the four Colours of its Composition are of a friendly sympathizing Nature, so consequently this will be the same;  and therefore may be easily changed, by the Addition of any other Colours. 
10.  Red Shade is nothing but Lake and a very little Indian Red:  It is a charming working Colour, and a good Glazer:  It strengthens the Shadows on the Shade-Teint; and receives, when it is wet, the Green and Blue Teints agreeably.  It is a good Ground for dark Shadows. 
11.  Warm Shade is made of Lake and Brown Pink, mixed to a middle Degree:  It is a fine Colour for strengthening the Shadows on the Shade-Teint, when they are wet or dry.  We must take care that it does not touch the Lights, because they will mix of a dirty Snuff-Colour;  and therefore should be softened with a tender cold Teint. 
12  Dark Shade is made of Ivory-Black and a little Indian Red only.  This Colour mixes very kindly with the Red Shade, and sympathizes agreeably with the middle Teints in the Dead-Colouring.  It is a charming glazing Colour for the Eye-brows and darkest Shadows.  It is of all the most excellent Shadow-Colour, and one of the finest working Colours we have. 

First Painting 
The Colours and Teints that are necessary for the First Painting of the Flesh. 
 1.  Fine White
 2.  Light Oker and its two Teints
 3.  Light Red and its two Teints
 4.  Vermilion and its Teint.
 5.  A Teint made of Lake, Vermilion, and White.
 6.  Rose Teint.
 7.  Blue Teint.
 8.  Lead Teint.
 9.  Green Teint.
10.  Half-shade Teint - is made of Indian Red, and White.
11.  Shade Teint.
12.  Red Shade.
13.  Warm Shade. 
The Finishing Palette for a fine Complexion requires six more;  viz.  Carmine and its Teint, Lake, Brown Pink, Ivory-Black, and Prussian Blue.


अर्जुन said...

People are gonna want to know whose palette that is.

innisart said...


Richard Piloco said...

Informative, thanks!

David Gluck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Gluck said...

Great info. Thanks for running such an amazing blog. I know it must take a lot of time out of your day and it benefits everyone.

Slevi29 said...

Could anybody help me please?
In the post there is a color named "Red Light". Could anybody tell me what color it is exactly. I've found Cadmium Red light a very useable color for flesh tones, but i've found another red light, and that is brownish. Please help me! ;)
Thanks in advance!
Greetings from hungary!