Oil paint

Oil paint


(piano playing) Narrator: I think sometimes
when we’re talking about our history, we
forget that the people who are making this are really artists. So, it’s really important to have a sense of what this material feels like and why people used it. What we have up on the screen is a [sezicaria] altarpiece painting by Giovanni Boldini who is known for this vivid color and very complex, sort of atmospheres, glorious luminosity in his paintings. In fact, he used oil paint
in a really interesting way. Oil paint has a kind of translucency and he really used that to advantage, but in a way that modern
painters don’t generally. Female: Can you explain what that means? Translucency? Narrator: What is oil paint? Isaac, when you paint, you don’t go and grind your minerals and
add linseed oil to it, do you? Isaac: No, not at all. But that’s what they would have done in the time of Boldini. Narrator: How does he get
this kind of jewel like color? That’s something that
we might have expected to see in northern painting
in the 15th century. Isaac: Well, it comes
from northern painting. Oil paint have different consistencies depending on what varnish
you use with them. If you use damar resin with them. Damar resin is just a natural tree sap. It looks just like
amber. It’s like a jewel and what you do is dissolve
this into turpentine and then mix it with the oil paint in order to make these
transparent glass-like, they’re just panes of paint. They’re almost like stained glass layers of translucent paint. Narrator: So, when the light hits this, the light is not hitting
just the top surface of the canvas and the paint on the canvas. It’s not sort of an opaque layer. What you’re saying is that light is actually entering
in, almost like a prism. Isaac: The light can
enter through all of them and go to the white surface
before it reflects back. So, they seem to glow from the inside. Narrator: So, that really is like a gem. That’s really what happens
when you look at a diamond. Light is entering. It’s
bouncing around inside before it finally comes back out again. Isaac: Yeah. Female: So, I think a lot
of people have this idea of oil paint as being kind of
a thick and gooey substance, but the way that you’re talking about it with Renaissance artists
applying thin glazes of color and many layers of that, it’s a very, very different
idea of oil paint application. It’s not thick gooey-ness, but a rather thin layers of it. Is that right? Narrator: That makes sense to me. And so that means that when
Boldini was painting this, he must have been painting … Let’s, for instance, if you look at that brilliant blue of
the Virgin Mary’s dress, it wouldn’t have been
that blue on his brush. It would have been that
blue very, very thinned out. Female: Does anyone know how
many layers they applied? Narrator: Well, I’ve heard in the dozens. Female: Really? Narrator: Yeah. Female: The paint had to
dry in between each layer completely, right? Narrator: Right. Isaac: But what damar
does, is damar speeds up the drying a little bit. Female: Oh. So, how long would it take a layer to dry normally? Narrator: Well, it depends on how much … Female: Humidity is in the air? Narrator: And how much oil there is. I mean, there are those stories of very heavily built
up canvases by Van Gogh. You have a skin that is dry, but inside there’s probably
still some viscosity. Female: Uh-huh. Narrator: So, this luminosity, this brilliance of color is a really important
characteristic of oil paint, but there’s another
important characteristic of oil paint which really
differentiates it from tempera before it, which is that if
you’re not using the damar that the oil would have
this really sort of wonderful liquid quality and it allows for the paint to come off the
brush in a very long stroke and it allows for the paint
to be mixed on the canvas as opposed to just on the palette. This is Turner’s Rain Steam Speed, The Great Western Railway. Female: So, you think Turner is actually mixing the paints on the canvas? Narrator: Oh, that’s a tough
one. I don’t know exactly. Isaac: I think so. Yeah. I would build on what you said about oils. This tempera is relatively
flat, as is acrylic and, sort of, the best tempera I think of is Botticelli’s work
where it’s very linear and all the colors form
these flat, kind of, interlaced lines. Female: Like hatching? Where
it’s like you’re hatching. Isaac: Yeah, like hatching. The basic unit of the painting is line, but in oils the basic unit is surface or atmosphere. It becomes
infinitely more complex. One color can penetrate another and just by working with two colors you can get an infinite array of colors. My position, I guess, on Turner, knowing the repetidy of his pace is that with this painting, yeah, he probably let the colors be alive and mix them on top of each other and allow them to penetrate each other and emerge and sink down
beneath one another. Narrator: That sounds so much more as if the process of painting exists in this direct confrontation of the artist and the canvas as opposed to something that’s much more premeditated,
much more sort of worked out and more
completely preconceived. What I’m thinking about is here we have a much more modest canvas and I’m wondering … Isaac: Right. Narrator: … how much of
a role media played … Female: Yes. Narrator: … in the
development of modernism as an aesthetic. In this canvas we have this … We have a painting that was criticized. A perfect exemplar of
modernity ripping through what have been a pastoral landscape. Female: So, what comes first though? There’s a kind of individualist part of the, kind of, romantic sensibility at this birth of modernism, but it does fit so perfectly
with the medium of oil paint and oil paint fits well in other ways with modernism, right? It’s something that
can go on wooden panels or on canvas. It can be bought and sold and moved around and
treated as private property. There’s so many things about oil paint that allow for this development
of modernism in a way. Narrator: It’s true. Even the heroism of paint, and that’s something I
think is worth touching on. The idea of this extraordinary, sort of, expressive brush stroke. Female: Right. Narrator: I’m thinking
about the work of Velasquez. There’s a kind of heroism in there that I think becomes
very much rooted in this notion of the individual. Female: And it’s kind of virtuosity … Narrator: Absolutely. Female: … that one can
show off with the brush. Isaac: You know, oil paint is the most historical medium. It’s
the medium of modernity and I’ve never found myself able to use, what for some reason, the bias in my mind from my education considered weaker media. My latest thing is to
paint with water colors. Female: The weakest medium? Isaac: Yeah. The associations
of being feminine and delicate. Female: Yeah, women
painted in water color. Isaac: Yeah. Female: As amateurs, so I
can’t take it as something that serious artists do. Isaac: Yeah, but now
I’m kind of interested in those issues. Like, why are
the materials so gender-ed? Narrator: Material is
really sort of critical. It doesn’t only allow us
to create a work of art, but it absolutely informs
what that work of art means. (piano playing)

3 Comments

  • ace boogie says:

    why cant I find this image

  • Carpophage says:

    Was informative up until the gender claptrap at end. "Why are materials gendered?" – answer: Amount of work required to use them.

  • Renzo says:

    A couple of thoughts:
    It's good to remember that glazing ( adding layers of translucent paint ) was done over a finished monochromatic underpainting that established all of the values of light and dark before color was applied as glaze.
    The name Giovanni is pronounced like Joe-VAH-nee. The first i is silent.
    Lastly, Looking at the image by J.M.W Turner ( 1775-1851) the question arises,
    ''Why isn't he considered the father of Impressionism?''.
    It is clearly as impressionistic as Monet's "Impression: Sunrise".

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *