Beneath the Surface: A Thousand Years of Artists at Work

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"Guided by artist and conservator Philippa Abrahams, we follow the development of the techniques and materials of Western art, from the natural pigments and parchment of medieval manuscripts and the hatched strokes of Renaissance drawings - as individual as handwriting - to the cotton canvas and acrylic paints used by Jackson Pollock, who wanted 'to become paint and make it dance'. Lavishly illustrated with paintings, drawings and photographs, the story is one of changing methods as artists searched for brilliant colours, useful tools and
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London, England 2008 Hard cover New. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. With dust jacket. 159 p. Contains: Illustrations. *****PLEASE NOTE: This item is shipping from an ... authorized seller in Europe. In the event that a return is necessary, you will be able to return your item within the US. To learn more about our European sellers and policies see the BookQuest FAQ section***** Read more Show Less

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Overview

"Guided by artist and conservator Philippa Abrahams, we follow the development of the techniques and materials of Western art, from the natural pigments and parchment of medieval manuscripts and the hatched strokes of Renaissance drawings - as individual as handwriting - to the cotton canvas and acrylic paints used by Jackson Pollock, who wanted 'to become paint and make it dance'. Lavishly illustrated with paintings, drawings and photographs, the story is one of changing methods as artists searched for brilliant colours, useful tools and effective methods and found new materials to enable them to work in different ways." To explain the complexities involved, Philippa Abrahams illustrates techniques, step by step, with her own reconstructions of masterworks. She describes her attempts at particular processes - trying her hand at fresco, for instance ('definitely a team activity: you need a skilled plasterer ... and someone to keep you fed and watered during long days of work'), and experimenting to see if she can discover Nicholas Hilliard's secret method of depicting gems.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780711227569
  • Publisher: Lincoln, Frances Limited
  • Publication date: 11/18/2008
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 9.40 (w) x 10.70 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword Richard Cork Cork, Richard 7

Drawing 10

Illuminated manuscripts 34

Miniatures 46

Fresco 60

Egg tempera 76

Oil painting 92

The changing palette 114

Watercolours 122

Acrylics 136

Artists' pigments 150

Further reading 150

Index 156

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  • Posted November 16, 2008

    historical perspective on techniques and materials of art

    One realizes in reading about the materials, techniques, and tools relating to various types of art how knowledge of these can enhance the viewing of art. As with one who knows how an engine is put together or a piece of furniture, knowledge of the processes and materials of art gives much apprehension and in some cases apperception of a work of art beyond its appearance and elementary emotional impression. Recognition of the materials, etc., of a work of art can also figure into judgment of it and appreciation of the artist's skill and in many cases his or her particular creativity.<BR/><BR/>An artist herself who is also a art conservator and museum consultant, Abrahams starts off with with the most basic art of drawing, followed by the topic of illuminated manuscripts of the medieval centuries; proceeding after this through fresco, egg tempura, miniatures, fresco, and egg tempera. When oil painting became highly developed in the Renaissance by combining pigment with oil, artists were able to "tell a story, make a portrait or a still life that looked so convincing that it could be mistaken for reality." This technical development in paint was interrelated to the humanism and new attention to the natural world leading to the science of the Enlightenment (although Abrahams only occasionally touches on the cultural and historical correspondences of the art subjects she deals with). She does regularly note the possibilities and effects of the materials, etc., of each type of art (which type is often associated with a historical era). Thus, the "aqueous [water-based] media" preceding oil paints could not realize such realism "because the colors dried to quickly to be smoothly blended" to copy the textures and infinite shadings of the colors of the physical world. The still lifes and portraits of the Renaissance especially evidence the realism attained with oil paint.<BR/><BR/>In the latter part of the 1900s, acrylics, also used for car finishes came into use with modern artists "freed from constraints in terms of what they chose to make their work from or about." "Acrylic resins are synthetic binding materials," the author explains in the relatively simple technical language she uses. In the 1940s and '50s, there were two types on acrylic paint. The one mixed with turpentine or some other solvent was "quite a stiff paint." The other introduced by the manufacturer Leonard Bocour was a more liquid paint suiting artists "who wanted to throw the stuff around a bit and work on a large scale. A painting by David Hockney illustrates use of the first kind of acrylic; a work by Jackson Pollock illustrates the second.<BR/><BR/>Though dealing with elementary tools and techniques of art, including preparatory techniques before a stroke is made, the work is not a how-to; nor does it have a workbook-like character. Nascent artists could profit from it, though the book is meant primarily and succeeds estimably as a supplement to art appreciation; and to some degree as a comparison to art history.

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