Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dead-Colouring: The First Painting of the Flesh

More than a year ago, I published a post on the academic ├ębauche, and the historic French palette most often associated with it.  Today, I re-visit the topic of the ├ębauche, or first painting, through the writings of Englishmen William A. Pinnock, and by necessity, Thomas Bardwell, from whom Pinnock borrowed his data.  This is also a continuation of yesterday's post which introduced the Pinnock/Bardwell flesh palette.

William A. Pinnock, A Catechism on the Practice of Painting in Oil (c. 1817)

The First Painting, or Dead-Colouring of Flesh. 
Q.  What is the first process in painting flesh?
A.  It is divided into two parts:  the one is the work of the shadows;  the other that of the lights. 
Q.  What is the work of the shadows?
A.  The work of the shadows, is to make out all the drawing very correctly with the shade tint, in the same  manner as if it were to be done with this colour only, leaving the canvass to form the light, as in a drawing on coloured paper:  the colour to be used sparingly as it approaches the light. 
Q.  What is the work of the lights?
A.  The lights are laid in with the light red tint, in different degrees, as we see them in nature.  These two colours of the shade and light red tints, produce a clean middle tint in mixing with each other, and are of so friendly a nature that, in mixing or changing them from one to the other, they will not appear dirty, but will take a pure and pearly hue;  therefore, it is highly proper to make out the greatest part of the likeness with them.
In this state, the complexion may be improved by the introduction of yellow tints in the lights and the bluish tints in their places.  The shadows may be gone over with the red, or warm shade;  but still short of the strength they must afterwards receive:  and it must here be observed, that neither the lights nor the shades should be darker than the complexion.  The light colour to be laid with full pencil, and not too liquid, more especially if the ground, or canvass, on which it is painted, is of a darkish tone.  The whole must now be united by a softener, or a long hog-haired tool, while the colours are yet wet;  and this is called the first part, or dead-colouring.

Thomas Bardwell from The Practice of Painting (1756):

First Painting 
The First Painting, or Dead-colouring, I divide into Two Parts:  The First, I call the First Lay, or Ground;  the second, the Laying on the Virgin Teints. 
The first Lay of Colours consists of Two Parts:  The one is the Work of the Shadows only, and the other that of the Lights. 
The Work of the Shadows is to make out all the Drawing, very correctly, with the Shade-Teint, in the same manner as if it was to be done with this Colour only;  and remember to drive or lay the Colour sparingly.  The Lights should be all laid in with the Light-red Teint, in different Degrees, as we see them in Nature:  These two Colours united produce a clean tender Middle Teint;  for, mixing with the Shade-Teint, they turn turn to a pearly Hue;  and by strengthening them with the Light-red, we may work to a very good Resemblance.  In uniting the Lights and Shades, we should use a long Softener, about the Size of a large Swan's-quill;  which will help to bring the Work into Character, and leave the Colouring more delicate;  then go over the darkest Shadows with the Red or Warm Shade, which will finish the first Lay. 
The Warm Shade being laid on the Shade-Teint, improves it to a warmer Hue;  but if laid instead of the Shade-Teint, it will dirty and spoil the Colours it mixes with;  and if the Red Shade be laid first, instead of the Shade-Teint, the Shadows would then appear too red and bloody;  therefore, notwithstanding these two Colours are the best that can be for the Shadows, yet they are too strong to be laid alone;  which is a Proof of the great Use and Merit of the Shade-Teint.  Here we may observe, that the Shade and Light-red Teints are so friendly and delicate in their Natures, that they will not dirty, tho' we are continually changing them:  How proper then, and agreeable to our Purpose, are they, for making the most principal Part of the Likeness, when in altering and changing they always produce a clean Colour of the inviting pearly Hue?


rahina q.h. said...

good post, very useful the way you have described it.

Julia Lundman said...

So the shade tint:

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.

To me this sounds like what might be either burnt sienna or perhaps Rembrandts Trans. Ox. Brown or Red.

Great post - thank you for all your research. This is valuable stuff.

innisart said...

@Julia I think either of your suggestions would be much more transparent than the color Bardwell is mixing.

Julia Lundman said...

Thank you for the further research on this topic in your newest post. Much appreciated!

Mark Stephenson said...

When you write: "make out all the drawing very correctly with the shade tint, in the same manner as if it were to be done with this colour only, leaving the canvass to form the light, as in a drawing on coloured paper: the colour to be used sparingly as it approaches the light."

Do you then lay in the lights using the reddish tints (as you later state) over the areas where you have left the canvas rather clean of pigment while this initial layer is still wet or do you allow it to dry before going over with the lighter tones?

Thank you for this great webpage!