Techniques, materials and pictorial genres throughout history Antiques 18/07/2023

Techniques in artistic practice have been very diverse throughout history: waxes, watercolours, gouache, acrylic, tempera, pastel, ink, fresco, grisaille and mixed techniques. Depending of what pictorial material is used, the colors, the surfaces, the contours and even the sensations that a work produces in us varies, so artists have always chosen the one that best suited to your needs.

Oil painting, a favorite technique for artists

Throughout history there has been a favorite technique for the artists: oil. Although in the Middle Ages it was a technique already known, his job used to be relegated to the background by the predominance of the use of tempera or fresco painting.

like this So, Van Eyck was not the inventor of this technique, as What has traditionally been considered, if not that he, along with other Flemish painters, carried out a series of investigations and many essays that allowed us to improve oil painting and generalize its use at the end of the 15th century. From then on there would be many the artists who expanded the technical possibilities of this type of paint and perfected it.

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Lorenzo Pasinelli, Attributed. "Hercules and Omphale", sold at the auction in May 2019, €50,000. .

The importance of advances in chemistry

It is worth noting the importance of the advances in chemistry made in the 19th century, and which involved the production and marketing of paint cans collapsible tubes of oil paint. This allowed for artists to come out of their studios and move their easels outside, developing painting au plein air, that is, in the open air, under constant light changes and in conditions completely different from those found in the study.

It was then that the company came up. such an important movement Impressionism, which starred in the pictorial renewal of the second half of the 19th century, giving way to modern art, promoting debate on artistic creation and establishing the art market among private art collectors online in Spain and the rest of the world.

In this way, until the appearance of acrylic paint Throughout the second half of the 20th century, oil was the technique This is more used by artists, since it is a procedure more flexible: does not show large color changes during drying, and allows you to superimpose layers and make corrections thanks to its drying slow. Thanks to X-ray photographs we can learn many of the changes that the artists introduced in their compositions throughout throughout the process of carrying out the work.

supports for paintings

The support is the base where the layers of paint are applied, and traditionally It has been considered that there are two types: fixed and portable.

The main fixed support is the wall, while for the mobile there are more options to choose from: wood, paper, canvas, copper, porcelain, vellum etc However, regardless of the chosen support, this what you will need a convenient preparation, which will go well. determined by the chosen technique.

It should be noted that this classification is not entirely accurate as that, for example, the mural painting may have been done on canvas, to be later placed on the walls. Other derived problem of this division is to consider that the only technique used in mural painting is fresco, when in fact the great most pictorial procedures are suitable for painting on wall.

The first support used were the walls of prehistoric caves. and of the rocky cliffs, with the cave paintings, support that thousands Years later, the process continued. using, but already in spaces built by man, having an important relationship with architecture and its visual consideration.

The second support on which the paint was applied. painting since ancient times, It was wood, which has been one of the most used supports by artists, extending its use until the eighteenth century.

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Castilian-Leonese School from the 16th century, "Verónica", sold at the auction in October 2020, €3,400 .

The canvas, the pictorial support par excellence

Now, the pictorial support par excellence has been the canvas. Already used in antiquity, although few copies are preserved of canvases prior to the fourteenth century, its use became widespread so systematic from the fifteenth century. This was due to to what, in comparison to the two most used media until then, the wall and the board, the canvas is more resistant to cold and to humidity, it allows to be transported easily as it is more light, the artist can decide its size and it is easier Prepare your support. This, obviously, favored to marketing of art and the development of collecting, as well as the development of like auctions painting online, so widespread today.

The canvas was fixed and stretched on a solid support, the frame, made of wood, usually reinforced in the center by two uprights.

The painting on copper deserves a special mention. The application The origin of oil on this metal dates back to the mid-fifteenth century and was especially used by flamenco artists. Its use became popular in the 16th century for different reasons: a greater interest in manageable pieces with which to adorn the houses of promoters and collectors; an improvement in mining techniques and invention of the mill, which allowed the the production of thin sheets coppermade; and for the reduced price that these sheets had.

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Georges Bretegnier (1869-1892), "La Prière", sold at auction in October 2019, €40,000 .

The different pictorial genres and their relevance

The pictorial genres refer to the classification of figurative painting according to its thematic content. like this So, there is historical painting (with religious, mythological themes e allegorical), portraiture, genre painting, landscape and still life.

The historiography of traditional art ranked the these genres and grouped them accordingly. according to the value he considered which they had, so that the larger genera existed (historical painting) and minor genres (still life, portraits and landscapes).

The European academies, main training institutions of the artists, they had an important role in the diffusion of This consideration will be kept strictly to this order.

Now, this hierarchy only made sense for the Academy, ending up being forgotten, partly thanks to different movements, such as realism or impressionism, whose paintings lacked of allusions or historical significance, as well as like abstract art, emerged at the beginning of the 20th century, which suppressed all kinds of figuration by this, this type of classifications

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Lluís Borrassà, "Martyrdom of the servants of San Hipólito", sold at the June 2020 auction, €70,000 .

New paths in painting

In the same way that happens with artistic disciplines such as sculpture or drawing, since the 19th century painting has been the main dynamics of changes, the result of the concerns and interests of the artists, who had their expression in experimentation with pictorial techniques, supports and genres artistic.

Mixed techniques arose with the first avant-garde, with the combination of different techniques in a work; the collage, that consist of the assembly of various elements, both pictorial materials such as photographs, press clippings, skin, objects of daily use, etc.; dripping, based on dripping and splashing painting on the surface; the grattege, making incisions and tears in the pictorial layer; and frottage, which consists of rubbing a pencil on a sheet placed on an object.

These experimentations continued throughout the second half of the twentieth century, with the painters of abstract expressionism, such as Pollock or Helen Frankenthaler dispensed with the stretcher, spreading the canvases in the floor or fixing them on the walls, and working directly on the canvas, without any kind of preparation.

From then until today, artists have been using this type of techniques, opting for those that best suit adapted to their needs, or continuing to innovate with materials, like Louise Bourgeois, Tàpies and Miquel Barceló.

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Frederic Beltran Massés, "Jeunesse de Salomé", sold at the June 2020 auction, €25,000 .