Pastel Painting



Pastel Painting

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Pastel Painting

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Alcade winding into the portal of a lofty Turkish fort, and hugging with tired horses the shadow of the grateful wall. A " Street in Cairo" and a " Halt in the Desert" are also the work of his gentle and cultured hand.
Heilbuth, the naturalized French citizen whose birthplace was Frankfort, has ceased to paint his bowing and complimenting cardinals on the Pincio, since the occupation of Rome by the temporal power. He now depicts without satire, though with equal skill, the life of graceful city visitors in country scenes. " In the Wheatfield " represents a beautiful Paris girl, standing (in six-button gloves) among the bearded corn, a Rue Rivoli Ruth looking about for her Boaz. " On the Lower Meudon" is a pretty scene of mother and daughter, the young mother throwing herself childishly on the grassy bank to enjoy the sight of her little girl's basket of flowers. It is a most difficult thing for an artist who has made a hit by satirical subjects to succeed again in works of pure quality ; but N these new themes of Heilbuth are appreciated among artists at the best level of his successful sarcasms on the church.
Meissonier is represented by a very tiny but most highly finished panel, "The Smoker," not exactly a jewel five words long, but a gem five inches high. It was painted in 1850, and at first brought but fifty pounds, though the master has earned for it since a value of ten times the sum. The subject is a cabaret figure, a sodden-looking young man of the Rousseau epoch, who tilts his halfmoon shaped claque over one ear and holds a clay pipe to his lips as he meditates pot-house wisdom over the Social Contract and the Rights of Man.
Troyon contributes, not a landscape group, but a pure figure-group, made up of life-size sheep's heads, and the watchful figure of a dog planted on the bank above. This unusual scheme of Troyon's'is called " Under the Master's Eye." Decamps is seen with an " Old Woman Peeling Potatoes," watchful of a baby in the cradle at the left, a picture showing his wonderful impasto and accumulation of coat on coat of light and color. Munkacsy, in a canvas of 1877, " The Moral of the Bottle," shows a besotted drunkard at a table, with a reproachful wife exhibiting her baby beside him, in a rustic room with arched windows and plastered walls. " Springtime," by Firmin Girard, is a Japanese belle walking under her paper parasol, among apple-blossoms which canopy the scene, and which she draws down to her little circular nostrils with a slim yellow hand. " The Oaths of Love," by Jourdain, shows a betrothed barefoot shepherd and knitting damsel, whispering on a rock beside the sea.
" In Bivouac," J^y Berne-Bellecour, shows French soldiers in winter, wrapped in overcoats, looking for signals from their sentinel perceived in the distance. " In the Trenches," by the same artist, shows a ditch, and a group of wounded and dead soldiers carried by their comrades through a breach in a wall, and a melancholy-looking cross planted in the earth in front, with a soldier's k6pi hung upon it instead of a graveyard inscription. This incident of nameless grave and unJionored death was seen by the artist during the siege of Paris, and the suburban sheds and buildings overhead show how near to the capital the Germans brought the invading march of Death the Destroyer. Detaille illustrates the same war with " Soldiers in a Stable," and "The Ambulance Corps," a review at Longchamps, two excellent specimens of his keen and incisive talent.
" The Reapers' Rest," by Jules Breton, is a composition, unusually full of the sense of warm summer air, representing harvest-women cast wearily around in the shade of a tree. Maurice Leloir, in a crowded brilliant picture well enough known from photographs, depicts the adulations of a Paris crowd shown toward a grinning monkey-like figure in a wig, borne along in a sedan or chariot— the subject being '* Voltaire's Last Visit to Paris." Cicerone.

Aniline colors for water-color drawings are used a good deal in France. In a letter lately read in public at Manchester, England, the writer says : " A friend of mine was on his way to the south of France, and I asked him to see if these colors were still sold and used, and he tells me they are extensively, and sent me cakes of them ; he also sent the enclosed sheet of the colors on drawing paper, half of it having been The practice of painting in crayons or pastels consists of drawing the outline, laying in the tints in their graduated shades, and blending them into harmony with the forefinger of the right hand. Some artists use the finger covered with a portion of a white kid glove ; but the leather has this disadvantage— in working very delicate colors they are likely to become vitiated by other colors being carried into them by the glove.
A rapid and ready method of executing small portraits consists in working the crayon lightly (or chalk, for it is equally applicable to that material) by means of a stump made of leather or gray paper, or what is perhaps better than either, of the pith of thewillow. When the sketch of the features is made, the tints are laid in with the stump, and when the breadths are completed, the whole is modelled, retouched, and hatched with crayons of somewhat harder texture, which are employed to determine outline, to define form, and communicate sharpness here and there where it may be necessary, and ' ultimately to correct the drawing.
But the student must be cautioned that the breadth of the stump is the rule— the point of the crayon is the exception. If there be more than a certain proportion of sharp line in a portrait, it becomes hard, and unlike nature.
The papers most suitable for crayon painting are those which will best hold and support the loading of the crayon, and which also in color will best serve as a base for clear and tender tints ; but especially those papers which will retain the fine powder of the crayon. Papers that, are substantial, not strongly sized, nor too soft and spongy, with a surface that can by rubbing and other means be fitted to receive, and retain the crayon are those best suited for this, kind of art. Almost any kind of paper may be used, by being previously rubbed with cuttlefish, if it have a very smooth surface. But there are papers manufactured expressly for crayon painting ; and these have the advantage of greatly assisting the labors of the artist, and of facilitating his progress, especially by readily receiving the crayon.
A preference for color in paper is a mere matter of taste. All colors are in use—blue, gray, buff, straw, olive, drab, and stone color ; .but in the employment of strongly-colored papers there is no real advantage. A dark ground in flesh painting is more difficult to deal with than a light one. Blue paper has been extensively used, but it has this disadvantage : At the commencement of a drawing, the colors appear warm and harmonious by opposition ; but when the whole is covered, a gray tone prevails throughout the work, which deprives it of life-like warmth and freshness. In using a paper of a warm gray or yellowish tint, similar to that of canvases prepared for oil painting, the artist would be more sure of the results he might desire to accomplish.
A good paper for portraiture, and agreeable to work upon, is the pumice paper— that is, paper prepared with a coat of starch, charged with impalpable pounce or pumice powder. To this surface the pastel adheres with tenacity, the tints come out with freshness, and those parts requiring force can be effectively charged with color. On this surface the colors are easily blended, the firm and distinct touches remain vigorous and spirited, and the work can be retouched as often as is necessary, without any apprehension of the surface refusing the crayon ; a disadvantage to which the artist is sometimes subject in the use of certain papers, especially in working with crayons of which clay forms a principal component, the soft and greasy quality of the clay rendering the paper incapable of receiving and retaining the color.

The method of preparing pumiced paper is first to apply, with a large and soft brush, a coat of starch or gelatine to the surface, after which it is dusted all over equally with impalpable pumice powder that has been passed through a fine sieve, but as papers properly prepared are to be purchased, and of quality and evenness superior to anything that the student himself could produce, it is only m cases of difficulty or emergency that he should have recourse to their preparation. In like manner, also, are prepared panels of wood and pasteboard, and even canvas, such as is* used in oil painting.
As the crayon tints are rubbed in with the finger, it will be necessary, before commencing a picture upon a coarse pumiced ground, to rub down with paper the rougher parts of the' surface. If this be neglected, the skin will quickly be abraded from the finger, to the great discomfort of the artist.
Before proceeding to draw upon the paper, it must be strained or mounted on a frame; and that it may not be injured by the pressure necessary in working, it should be backed by a cloth or another strong paper, strained upon the frame before the pumiced paper is placed on it. The paper being thus supported, tne artist proceeds without fear of either stretching or breaking it.
For small studies, one sheet of paper is sufficient ; but if the study be large, not only will a canvas support be necessary, but sometimes even above this it is expedient to place a layer of paper before stretching that upon which the drawing is to be made. Large frames should be strengthened by one or two cross-bars, in order to prevent their warping by the tension to which they will be subjected.
The execution of a life-sized head or portrait is thus carried out. The outline may be made with a firm crayon, either brown or red. Gray is also used ; hence it will be seen that the color of the crayon is entirely discretional. The drawing must be made lightly, in order that the crayon shall not enter the texture of the paper, so as to render the markings difficult to be superseded subsequently by the necessary color.
Black lead pencil, for instance, would be unsuitable for this purpose, as the metallic surface that it leaves will not receive crayon. When the outline is complete, the breadths are made out by means of a brown crayon and a stump, working especially for the degrees of shade. When the likeness is as satisfactory as it can be made in a first sketch, the complexion may then be proceeded with, beginning with the lights. The whites, yellows, reds, and grays must be worked in by superposition, and blended to an imitation of the reality of nature.
From the highest lights, the student must proceed by gradations to the deepest shades, and these, in order to secure roundness and substance, must be put in equal in strength to nature ; after which, the middle tones must be very carefully blended, so as to unite the lights and shades by imperceptible gradations. The markings must be definitely made out, and the reflexes also, if there be any.
As the fresher tints occur principally in the lights, it would be well to keep the color rather high and of a warm tone, in order to reserve the brightest and most effective tints Jill the last. When all the tints have been laid in, in a manner somewhat resembling mosaic —when the head is in a satisfactory state as to form, color, and expression— then, with the forefinger or the little finger, the whole is passed over, and the colors worked and blended into harmony. In this operation the finger acts as a stump, and nothing else will be found so effective.

The result of this treatment will be a flattening and softening of the whole work, the breadths as well as, the outline, and also a marked reduction in the freshness and spirit of the color ; and hence the necessity of a forcible sketch to work upon. When this operation is concluded, the crayons must be again used to bring up the color and tone to those of the life— to modify and correct those which may require retouching. Those passages which are heavy must be relieved, and those which may be too cold or too warm must be reduced to harmony. Working with the finger will be found at once the most available method of managing the crayons, and the learner will soon acknowledge that the desirable result is unattainable by any other means. In his earliest essays in crayon, the student generally relies too much upon the finger, and works down his tints to tameness and insipidity ; whereas, with some observation and a little experience, the power of the finger is such as, with a few touches, to blend and harmonize the tints into a fresh and life-like imitation of the model. But this supposes the exercise of care and judgment.
In coloring, the principal difficulty is, of course, the rubbing in of the proper tints in the proper places, with the power of representing, by blending or superposition, any tint that may not be found in the crayons. These complex tints are of continual'occurrence in every set of features that may come under our notice. Having laid in the tints according to the natural complexion, and in their strictly relative gradations, it will be necessary, before touching the work with the finger, to be certain that all are laid in the proper places, and all as nearly as possible respectively disposed in their proper degrees. If this be the case — and a little experience will enable the learner to judge of it — there remains but little work for the finger to perform ; and the less the colors are worked upon, the more fresh and transparent they will remain.
But if tints of remote degrees be placed in juxtaposition, the tint resulting from these is not only at once false, but the labor of the learner becomes increased fivefold, if it be not at once necessary to remove the whole of the color.
The skilful pastel artist does not abuse the power which the use of the finger gives ; he knows exactly the utmost force of the crayon, and does not, accordingly, destroy its best quality. In works of art, it is more difficult to learn where to stop than how to begin. If the tints be properly selected, the office of the finger is only to reconcile the colors, and give breadth to the whole by removing any distinctions of tone that may appear.
The errors into which a learner may fall arise from the constant and indiscriminate use of the finger. The results of this are as already stated — the enfeebling of the drawing, the loss of outline, and the reduction of the tints to flatness and opacity. The student is also liable to dwell upon detail, and to neglect the breadths — a practice that produces defects the more embarrassing, as they cannot easily be remedied.

The shade of flesh tints is warm or cold according to the warmth or coldness of the breadths of the light. If the lights be of a healthy hue, the shades may be warm, inclining to brown, mixed with various colors, broken with light red, carmine, yellow, and blue or gray. Some artists represent nature as violet or green in shade, but this is untrue and must be guarded against.
It is advisable generally to follow the Italian feeling, of leaving the dark passages warm. When the complexion is strong in color, the effect of this is most agreeable, if worked without hardness, opacity, or blackness. The deepest shades even should be relieved by a certain transparency, obtainable by halftints. Without such relief, they will always be expressionless and heavy.
In feminine portraits or studies, the work must be brought up to the utmost brilliancy of color by the brightest and freshest hues, composed of white, Naples yellow, vermilion, and madder, mellowed with yellows, or slightly empurpled with lake or carmine, according to the prevalent tint of the subject, i In the masculine subjects the colors will be stronger and the half-tints more positive.
Great care must be observed, lest the high and delicate passages be soiled or stained. They must only be approached by and blended with other shades at their extremities ; and these shades are, in most cases, half-tints.
Some pastel artists adopt the practice of mixing their tints upon the paper itself ; but if the uncertainty of this method were the only objection to it, that were sufficient to condemn it. This is done, especially in life-sized heads, by breaking and mixing the crayons, perhaps on the cheek, and then harmonizing the tints so produced by rubbing and softening ; but it is an unnecessarily laborious process, likely to produce a spottiness very difficult to correct. Those half-tints, or w T arm or cold grays, which are employed as intermediates to meet and reconcile tones of remoter degrees, must be qualified with the colors with which they are associated, otherwise they will not harmonize. But as this will at once be felt by the merest tyro, and the remedy suggests itself, no special instruction on this point is necessary. It will be obvious that, if the intermediate tint be too cold, it must be treated with the reds or yellows ; if too warm, reduced by gray or blue. The lights and shades should be carefully graduated, till harmony prevails throughout the work. The student must not expect to realize this at once — it. can only be accomplished by experience.
The draperies, dress, and accessories must be treated with greater freedom and decision than can be used in the features ; and this larger manner will, in contrast with the delicate drawing of the features, serve to give value to the latter.
For backgrounds there is no arbitrary rule ; a head may be relieved by a light 'background or by a dark background, and with good effect by either, although with the latter it would be much more forcible than with the former. But a dark background is not always suitable, especially for feminine portraiture. Backgrounds are not to be rubbed in mechanically, with the persuasion that any dark will relieve any light, or that any middle tint that may be cut by shade will suffice. It will be understood, as a general rule, that the background immediately round the head should be lower in tone than the half-tints of the face, and lighter than the shades, to give air and space — to disengage the head.
A perfectly flat and unbroken tint may be employed for the relief of a portrait with the best effect ; but, in general practice, this is to be avoided by the student, for whom the safest method will be to relieve his heads by a background so broken up as to throw off, with various degrees of force, the parts opposed to it. We speak only of portions placed in opposition, because in dark backgrounds, very often, the tone is reduced even to the depth of the hair.
It frequently occurs that in passing repeatedly over certain parts of the work, the paper becomes glazed, or greasy, under the frequent application of the pastel, and thus refuses to receive the color. In this case, in order to restore a practicable surface, it will be necessary to rub it gently with pumice pounce, very fine glass-paper, or, what is still better, with cuttlefish.
This glazing of the surface is generally attended by another inconvenience, arising from the too vigorous application of the finger or the pastel — that is, the distension and loosening of the fibre of the paper, for which, if there were no remedy, it would be necessary to abandon the drawing. The distension of the paper may be reduced and its firmness restored by wetting it behind with wafer in which a little alum has been dissolved.
It will be seen that very much will depend upon the intelligence of the student, who may at once catch the spirit of these observations, or may achieve success by perseverance. There are many things difficult of explanation, but very easy of exemplification in practice. It is, therefore, to practice and the experience that results from it that the student must have recourse for the acquisition of a knowledge of many details which application will readily teach.
In some departments of art, written precepts read smoothly, and induce a confidence which a little experience quickly destroys ; but in crayon painting, on the contrary, a little experience will confirm and augment any degree of confidence which a student desiring to acquire the practice of crayon painting may have gathered from these directions.

An Antwerp chemist, M. Blockx, has lately published the results of his investigations into the perishability of pigments. The following summary of what he says is translated from " Le Moniteur des Arts :" Why do modern pictures deteriorate so quickly? why do they peel off and so soon lose their freshness ? To these questions M. Brockx replies : On account of — The employment of oils of inferior quality, which darken.
The use of drying oils and of varnish, which cause the painting to crack. The abuse of turpentine, which takes the brilliancy out of the color, and kills the tone. The employment of badly prepared colors, or of those whose fixity is not perfect, such as vermilions, chromes, and certain lakes. The bad preparation of canvases and panels. The defective manner of applying colors. The too hasty varnishing of pictures.

We need not enter into a detailed examination of these various statements, justified as they are by constant experience. All artists will tell you that their colors are no longer prepared with the care of former times, that their canvases and panels are often coated with corruptible materials ; and this decided a great number — Henner, Roybet, Meissonier, for example — to prepare them themselves. We prefer to dwell on the chemical portion of the treatise, that in which M. Blockx passes all the colors in review and explains what the artist ought to expect from their, use.
M. Blockx first eliminates as unfit for painting : Blanc de neige, Chinese white, cochineal carmine, carmine lakes and burnt madder ; the chrome, Indian, zinc, and antimony yellow ; woad lake, yellow lake, raw sienna, terre verte, green ochre, Paris greens, Scheele's or emerald greens, Schweinfurt greens, green cinnabar, green lakes, malachite green, and cobalt ; mineral and Prussian blues, violet lakes, umber, bitumen, mummy, and ivory brown.
It is evident that M. Blockx hits hard and that he 'takes many resources from the palette of some painters. But on looking into the matter a little more closely it will be seen that, except the lakes, raw sienna, Indian yellow, and Prussian blue, essential colors do not figure in this table of exclusion, and that all the prohibited materials can easily be replaced by the mixture of fixed colors giving similar colorings. If artists listened to his advice, they would be led to a practical reform, the excellence of which has been indicated by the old masters ; namely, the simplification of their palette. The portraits of these masters to be seen in the museums, and all that one knows of their methods, show them to us actually seeking their combinations with black, white, ochre, vermilion, and l?lue, like Rembrandt and Velasquez (to quote only these), and finding even in this simplicityof materials the means of enhancing the character of their impressions. In these days one rather loses* sight of all this. Artists encumber their palettes with a number of colors which give them the requisite tones ready made. So much the worse for them, and if it is necessary to make any exception, it can only be in favor of painters of flowers, a class of subjects demanding special primary material, employed perhaps— -M. Blockx would say, surely— to. the detriment of duration.

The question of oils has also much engrossed M. Blockx. Oil being an element in the darkening of painting, he has sought to replaced, and has ended by substituting for it amber dissolved by a new process. A writer in our London contemporary, The Artist, commenting on M. Blockx's list, remarks :
" The one great failing of the very few who have given attention to the study of pigments is the attempt on each one's part to say definitely this pigment should be used and that should not ; the result of such division into permanent and non-permanent classes is that there is no uniformity among the writers who have studied the subject. Thus in M. Blockx's list of useless pigments we find Chinese white (the oxide of zinc) ; the only reason we can conceive for this is that in oil painting this white is not so easily manipulated, and does not dry so rapidly (unless a. siccative, which usually turns brown, be added to it) as the unstable white-lead compounds. In every other respect, especially for water-color painting, it is the most perfect white yet obtained. As regards the lakes, we admit the fugitive nature of most cochineal lakes ; cochineal carmine, however, is the most permanent of them all, although it cannot be looked upon as absolutely durable. Raw sienna also should certainly not be classed among the ' unfit ' pigments ; it is only where its ferruginous nature/ comes in contact with chemical elements unfavorable to iron that its use should be avoided, for otherwise it is but little changed by light, time, or foul air. Terre verte, when obtained free from earths containing copper, is certainly very durable, and unaffected by, and unaffecting, other colors when in combination with them. With the remainder of the list we do not disagree. Far more good, however, would be done by stating the qualities and the actions various pigments assume toward each other, than in endeavoring to construct tables of so-called * permanent' and ' non-permanent' colors ; for then the artist would know under what conditions it would be safe, and what unsafe, to use a certain pigment."

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