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  1. #1
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    Default Titian--grounds and mediums

    What ground did Titian paint on when working on canvas? What medium did Titian use, a precise recipe if posssible? Can I simulate these practices with materials available today? I am interested in his authentic practices and not equivalent modern substitutes (excluding the commercial manufacture of paints). I am very happy to have discovered this forum but fundamentally disagree with its position that "artists" should be able to master whatever media is available to them in order to achieve the effect they desire (Gerhard Richter is my preferred example of this fallacy). Certain effects inhere to certain media in my opinion. I apologize if this point of difference seems belligerent in tone--I only post after I have consumed my fourth unit of alcohol. Any response is greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
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    Default Titian--grounds and mediums

    Quote Originally Posted by quatto View Post
    What ground did Titian paint on when working on canvas? What medium did Titian use, a precise recipe if posssible? Can I simulate these practices with materials available today? I am interested in his authentic practices and not equivalent modern substitutes (excluding the commercial manufacture of paints). I am very happy to have discovered this forum but fundamentally disagree with its position that "artists" should be able to master whatever media is available to them in order to achieve the effect they desire (Gerhard Richter is my preferred example of this fallacy). Certain effects inhere to certain media in my opinion. I apologize if this point of difference seems belligerent in tone--I only post after I have consumed my fourth unit of alcohol. Any response is greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
    quatto,

    Titian undoubtedly used an oil ground, probably prepared by his studio assistants. We have no precise recipe for Titian's medium, and we doubt that anyone has that unless there is some conservation science publication out there with an analytical article by a scientist. He certainly used linseed oil and gum Turpentine, and probably used a balsam like Venice turpentine to modify the viscosity of the paints by the time he got to the top glazes. It is known that Titian had assistants do his underpaintings to his specifications, and that he then came along and did the glazing, with opaque passages.

    We think it will be easy to simulate Titian's painting technique using materials that are available today. You might do a Google search for sellers of "traditional art materials": we know of several wh can supply everything needed for making paintings that resemble those from before the 20th C -- Sinopia, Doak, and Natural Pigments come immediately to mind.

    We're not sure why you think "'artists' should be able to master whatever media is available to them in order to achieve the effect they desire" is fallacious. It may be true that Gerhard Richter has failed to master the technicalities of oil painting, but it doesn't then follow that the whole statement is fallacious. In fact, a lot of well-known, famous artists today are not-so-great at knowing how to use the paints they use, even as there are plenty of famous artists who do.
    _____________
    The AMIEN Staff

  3. #3
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    Default thanks, and sorry for the tone of my post

    Sorry for the tone of my initial post. I put it up after several hours of struggling to wrangle a painting in line using new materials, and made some peevish comments probably inspired by the apparent futility of my enterprise. However, I was and remain genuinely curious about Titian's practices, thanks for your insights.

  4. #4
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    Default Thanks and apologies

    Quote Originally Posted by quatto View Post
    Sorry for the tone of my initial post. I put it up after several hours of struggling to wrangle a painting in line using new materials, and made some peevish comments probably inspired by the apparent futility of my enterprise. However, I was and remain genuinely curious about Titian's practices, thanks for your insights.
    quatto,

    No need to apologize. We know this well: wrestling with painting problems (pictorial/aesthetic and/or technical) can be very frustrating. We've been known to stomp around, muttering or yelling -- good thing our studios are in a barn ...
    _____________
    The AMIEN Staff

  5. #5
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    18

    Default

    I realize that this is a very old thread and apologize for taking this long to comment.

    We do have a good sense of the grounds that Titian used. Vasari comments on the grounds of early 16th century Venice (actually, Vasari is an unreliable commentator on technical issues: the erroneous stories about the "discovery of oil paint" and its travel to Italy through de Messina) More importantly technical studies performed on Titian's paintings have shown that he and his contemporaries actually began their paintings by scraping a thin layer of true gesso (gypsum in animal glue) or even flour in glue into the interstices of the canvas weave and covered this with a layer of oil paint. The gesso was really only present in the hollow of the interstice and not a this continuous layer. The thinness of this layer and the superimposed oil (which helped to plasticize the brittle gesso) mitigated the degree of cracking that would definitely have occurred if the gesso was applied in a thicker manner. There are also examples of the application of unpigmented oil to make the gesso ground less absorbent and more pliable. This technique and the use of gesso on fabric supports was replaced by oil grounds in the generation after Titian.

    A wonderful and comprehensive chapter covering the grounds used by western painters can be found in the soon to be released Conservation of Easel Paintings edited by Dr. Joyce Hill Stoner
    http://www.amazon.com/Conservation-E.../dp/0750681993

    Before you run out and emulate the gesso/oil imprimatura ground layering you should realize that it is in no way a panacea and that it was abandoned for good reason. The gesso was probably used simply as a continuation of panel painting preparation. Even with the superimposed oil layer, it is a rather brittle and precarious system. It is likely that the practice was abandoned in preference of oil grounds because of problems associated with cracking, etc.

    It is a mistake to assume that the practices of the distant past were always superior because of all of the masterpieces we see in the museums of the world. I think that we often overlook that fact that far more paintings failed or were destroyed so long ago that we are not able to see the devastating results of poor materials and techniques. Also, paintings housed in European collections were often stored in environments that may not have been ideal but which were rather stable or altered slowly throughout the year. There is far less of a problem with a painting being stored in a cold, damp, and dark church for hundreds of years. The problems arise more from environmental fluctuation. This was amply proven when in the early 20th century paintings were brought from these locations to collections in America where the relative humidity and temperature varies widely day after day. This was when transferring and routine lining became so popular and even performed as a prophylactic remedy.

    I hope that is of help and interest.

  6. #6
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    Default Ground in Titan's time

    Quote Originally Posted by apigmentboy View Post
    I realize that this is a very old thread and apologize for taking this long to comment.

    We do have a good sense of the grounds that Titian used. Vasari comments on the grounds of early 16th century Venice (actually, Vasari is an unreliable commentator on technical issues: the erroneous stories about the "discovery of oil paint" and its travel to Italy through de Messina) More importantly technical studies performed on Titian's paintings have shown that he and his contemporaries actually began their paintings by scraping a thin layer of true gesso (gypsum in animal glue) or even flour in glue into the interstices of the canvas weave and covered this with a layer of oil paint. The gesso was really only present in the hollow of the interstice and not a this continuous layer. The thinness of this layer and the superimposed oil (which helped to plasticize the brittle gesso) mitigated the degree of cracking that would definitely have occurred if the gesso was applied in a thicker manner. There are also examples of the application of unpigmented oil to make the gesso ground less absorbent and more pliable. This technique and the use of gesso on fabric supports was replaced by oil grounds in the generation after Titian.

    A wonderful and comprehensive chapter covering the grounds used by western painters can be found in the soon to be released Conservation of Easel Paintings edited by Dr. Joyce Hill Stoner
    http://www.amazon.com/Conservation-E.../dp/0750681993

    Before you run out and emulate the gesso/oil imprimatura ground layering you should realize that it is in no way a panacea and that it was abandoned for good reason. The gesso was probably used simply as a continuation of panel painting preparation. Even with the superimposed oil layer, it is a rather brittle and precarious system. It is likely that the practice was abandoned in preference of oil grounds because of problems associated with cracking, etc.

    It is a mistake to assume that the practices of the distant past were always superior because of all of the masterpieces we see in the museums of the world. I think that we often overlook that fact that far more paintings failed or were destroyed so long ago that we are not able to see the devastating results of poor materials and techniques. Also, paintings housed in European collections were often stored in environments that may not have been ideal but which were rather stable or altered slowly throughout the year. There is far less of a problem with a painting being stored in a cold, damp, and dark church for hundreds of years. The problems arise more from environmental fluctuation. This was amply proven when in the early 20th century paintings were brought from these locations to collections in America where the relative humidity and temperature varies widely day after day. This was when transferring and routine lining became so popular and even performed as a prophylactic remedy.

    I hope that is of help and interest.
    apigmentboy,

    This was very interesting to read. Thanks.
    The AMIEN Staff

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