A long wooden rod with a pad at one end that is used by the painter to
steady his hand when working on fIne details. He holds the mahlstick in
his left hand and lays the pad on the canvas and then rests his right
with the brush on the stick.
A product made from gum, used to mask or cover a surface that needs to
be protected from receiving paint.
The method in which an artist works; oil-painting, gouache, pastel, pen
and ink, etching, collage, sculpture, etc., are all media for his expression.
In another sense medium may be used to describe an additive to the colours
when painting, linseed to oil-paints, egg yolk to tempera, gum to water-colour.
(also termed: McGuilp, magilp) An 18th-century oil-painting medium, a
mixture of linseed oil, mastic varnish and lead driers. It is a jelly-like
substance slightly cloudy and yellow. It does impart an ease of working
to the colours, but it is liable to make the paint film brittle and cause
Copper sheets have been used primarily, although works have been painted
on aluminium, iron, steel and zinc. Media suitable are acrylics, alkyds
and oils. The metal sheets should be degreased and then given some kind
of grounding. Paintings on metal are susceptible to damage by temperature
change and if the sheets are thin, by careless handling.
A small picture not normally larger than 6 inches in diameter. The greatest
schools of miniature-painting flourished in England during the 16th and
17th centuries. The leaders were such as Nicholas
Hilliard, the Olivers and John Hoskins. Portraits were nearly always
mounted in elaborately worked gold lockets. Miniatures can be painted
in oil, water-colour, gouache and tempera and the smallest brushes No.
000 are known as triple goose, and are made from fine sable hairs. Although
Hilliard painted small heads that would fit in rings, the smallest ever
are by a Canadian, Gerard Legare of British Columbia, who manages to work
on pin-heads with diameters from 0'8-6'3 mm.
One or more medium used in the same picture. Thus pastel and ink, pastel
and water-colour, tempera and water-colour, etc.
A method of decorating floors, walls and ceilings with tiny fragments
(tesserae) set into mastic plaster or cement. It has a beginning in Crete
and with the early Greeks. The largest mosaic is on the walls of the Library
of the Universidad Nacional Autonomao de Mexico. There are four walls,
the two largest measuring 12,949 sq ft (1203 m2) which depict the Pre-Hispanic
past. The largest in Britain is Roman and is the Wood-chester pavement,
Gloucestershire of about CE 325. It was excavated in 1793 and measures
48 ft 10 in square (14'88 m2), and is made of 11 million tesserae. It
is kept covered with protective earth.
Multiple tint tool
A tool used particularly in wood-engraving with a thick rectangular rod
which is so made that it will cut up to five or six lines at a time. It
can be used for cross-hatching or pecking textures.
Paintings that are executed directly on to a wall. Media can include fresco
(buon and secco), oils, tempera, casein and acrylics. In all cases the
painter must take great care to see that the wall is stable, the surface
firm and that it has been prepared correctly for the chosen medium. Jacopo
Robusti, nicknamed Tintoretto, painted the largest mural during the Renaissance.
With the help of his son Domenico he produced 'Il Paradiso' on Wall 'E'
of the Sala del Maggior Consiglio in the Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace)
in Venice. It is 72 ft 2 in (22 m) long and 22 ft 11 in (7 m) high and
contains more than 100 figures. The largest painting in Britain is the
great oval 'Triumph of Peace and Liberty' by Sir James Thornhill (1676-1734),
on the ceiling of the Painted Hall in the Royal Naval College, Greenwich,
Greater London. It measures 106 ft (32'3 m) by 51 ft (15.4m) and took
Thornhill 20 years (1707-27) to complete.
Back to Top
A form of abstract painting which contains no images, references, or associations
from the natural world. Also called concrete art.
Painters have used an extraordinary variety of oils in their efforts to
attain the perfect personal paint consistency and working quality. The
chief oil for oil-paints today is linseed, although there might be additions
of poppy oil if it was desired to slow the rate of drying. In history
such as these below have been experimented with, sometimes with injurious
effects to the finished painting: walnut, sunflower, hempseed, safflower,
rosemary, cloves, pine, poppy, spike and tung.
This technique was not suddenly invented; the story that accredits its
invention to the Van Eyck brothers is incorrect, although they did much
to help the evolution of the new medium. Previous to the 15th century
the painter had to rely on fresco and tempera, both of which media, as
beautiful as they are, lack the power to give the full richness and glow
to the pigments. The exploratory steps of adding oil and varnish to egg
tempera to raise a brighter, stronger palette were taken by such as Piero
della Francesca (c 1410/20-92), Filippo Lippi (c 1406-69) and particularly
Antonello da Messina (1430-79). Today the colours are principally ground
in linseed oil. Supports can be canvas, hardboard, wooden panels or prepared
paper. Brushes are largely hog bristle as they have the strength to control
the thick colours; painting-knives are also used for application. The
technical procedure is always to start with a lean underpainting and then
finish with richer thicker paint if desired. Heavy impasto and glazing
can be employed for special passages. When completed and thoroughly dried
through, a process which can take up to and more than twelve months, then
a resin or wax varnish can be applied. See also: Oil
Painters of Ireland.
Sub-category of Outsider Art;
works by artists outside mainstream culture.
The first known examples are probably those used in Egypt which were simple
bundles of thin reeds bound to a handle; the British Museum has one of
these and its date is put at about 1900 BCE. Since that time many strange
hairs and bristles have been used. Apart from attempts to use human hair;
at least the following animals have been tried: horse, cow, ox, black
sable, kolinsky, weasel, squirrel, ring-cat, skunk, civet, fitch, badger,
pony, goat, bear, hog bristle from China, India, Poland, France and the
Balkans; and from the sea the Blue, Fin, Sei and Humpback whales have
contributed baleen. Plant fibres from Agave, Yucca, Sisal, Bahia, Gumati,
Palmetto and Hickory splits have also been used. Broadly stated, hair
brushes are for water-colour, gouache, miniature work, inks, tempera while
the hog bristle is for oils and acrylics. Brush shapes that can apply
to both hog and hair are: round, bright, flat, filbert, sword, rigger,
fan or sweetener, mop. In the 18th century small sable or other hair brushes
generally set in quills were termed pencils.
See: How to Appreciate Paintings.
For a list of top European painters (c.1300-1815), see: Old
In America, the best schools include the following:
Painting knives, pallette-knives
Both of these are made of fine tempered steel that is flexible. The palette-knife
has a straight handle and is intended for mixing colours on the palette
or for cleaning it. The painting-knives have cranked handles to keep the
fingers clear from the painted surface; they also have a wide variety
of shape ranging from small trowels to long spatulas.
Essential for colour-painting, an
artist's palette refers to (1) The instrument the artist mixes his colours
on. This may be a traditional mahogany, or other wood, as a rectangular
shape or 'hook' or balanced studio. Artists also use metal and ceramic
palettes, glass-topped tables, and for outside work with oils there are
disposable greaseproof-paper blocks available, which allow a sheet to
be torn off and discarded with the colour remnants. (2) The selection
of colours that the artist uses. In general the early masters used fewer
colours than the painters of this century. Partly this can be explained
by the fact that the chemist has provided a far greater selection for
today's painter; but also the Renaissance masters and those around them
normally employed a well-thought-out scheme of underpainting that gave
greater scope to the pigments applied on top. See Colour
A popular support until the appearance of canvas during the 15th century.
One major advantage of panels, was their very smooth surface, which made
them ideal for painting fine detail.
An instrument for reducing or enlarging designs or sketches, that uses
a simple system of levers; known since the 17th century.
A substance produced from wood-pulp, rags or other material with fibres.
It is thought that the art of making paper started in China with Tsai-lun
about CE 105. It is likely that the invention was carried from the Far
East by the Turks during the Dark Ages. It first appears in Europe in
Spain, and Italy during the 12th century.
The varying methods used by artists have called for a large number of
different papers. Broadly they can be divided into two categories: cartridge
and rag. The former is made from wood-pulp and is generally used for schools,
or work in a draughtsman's office. Rag papers are produced from good-quality
cotton or linen rags and are finished to three surfaces. 'Hot pressed',
with a smooth slightly shiny surface; 'Not' with a matt and 'Rough' with
a quite coarse-grained, rough appearance. The papers beside being white
can have tints ranging from black right across the palette to pale creams
and greys. Pastel-workers often choose coloured papers. There are also
heavy textured papers such as Cox, de Wint, Ingres, Turner and specialized
makes including Montgolfier, Carson and Hodgkinson. Papers for printing
on can be made from mulberry, and with some of the Eastern types, grasses
and reeds are used. Papers will take all media except oils and alkyds
without further treatment, for the two latter some form of isolation and
priming should be used. Hans Holbein was a painter who used treated paper
for preliminary oil-sketches.
A form of paper made by the early Egyptians. It was made from the reed
Cyperus papyrus; strips of the reed were laid over each other,
then they were soaked with water and pounded, lastly being dried in the
Animal skins that have been treated by scraping, use of lime to remove
hair, and rubbing. Skins of sheep, pigs, goats have been used. For vellum
those of young calves or still-born lambs are favoured. Pliny the Elder
claims that parchment was discovered by Eumenes 11 (197-159 BC) of Pergamum.
It remained the principal support for writing on until the advent of paper
in the 12th century.
A method of painting or drawing with sticks of dry colour which have the
minimum of binder; a reason why pastel pictures keep their bright fresh
look almost indefinitely. The main danger for them is concussion, a sharp
knock can cause particles of colour to fall off the paper. They are composed
of pure pigment mixed with an inert filler such as kaolin with a minimal
amount of gum tragacanth, casein or skimmed milk and are then formed into
sticks by extrusion or a pressure mould. The technique was an evolution
from early chalk-drawing. In the 18th century a number of French artists
worked in the medium, including: Mauriee Quentin de La Tour (1704-88),
Jean-Baptiste Chardin (1699-1779), Jean Etienne Liotard (1702-89), and
Edgar Degas (1834-19I7) who exploited pastels to the full with his charming
scenes from the ballet. Pastels should be used on a paper that has some
'tooth' to grip and hold the pigment particles. It can be manipulated
with a brush, a fingertip or a tortillon. Fixing a pastel is debatable
by some artists as the fixative is liable to change the tones and tints.
See also Pastel Drawings.
The English word, the French equivalent, plume, and the German,
Peder, originally meant a wing-feather. St Isidore of Seville in
the 7th century writes about a quill-pen. The hand-cut quill, from birds
such as geese, swans and turkeys, was the principal drawing instrument
for use with ink until the 19th century. In 1809 Joseph Bramah patented
a machine for cutting up a quill into separate nibs. In 1818 Charles Watt
patented a process for gilding quills, which could be regarded as the
forerunner of the gold nib. In 1822 Hawkins and Mordan patented a method
for making nibs from horn and tortoise-shell, the points being made long
lasting by attaching small pieces of diamond or ruby. Steel nibs of various
trial types, successful and not, started to appear late in the 18th century
and by the mid 19th had taken over. The earliest example of a metallic
pen was found at Pompeii and is now in Naples Museum. Many Oriental artists
have in the past and through till today used pens cut from thin bamboos.
See also Pen and Ink Drawings.
Pencil (see Paint brushes)
Graphite wooden jacketed pencils as are known today date from the end
of the 17th century when there was a prosperous British business in the
north country and when, as Sir John Pettus commented, 'Black Lead ...
is curiously formed into cases of Deal or Cedar, and so sold in Cases
as dry Pencils.' On the Continent they were nicknamed crayons d' Angleterre.
It was Nicolas Jacques Conte (1755-1805), the French inventor, who worked
out the process of mixing a clay with the graphite to give a selective
range of hard and soft pencils. An account of his inventions is given
in Jomard's "Conte, sa vie et ses travaux" (1852). See Pencil
A reappearance of a design, a drawing or a picture that has been painted
over; It is a phenomenon particularly associated with oils. It is caused
by the medium or vehicle with the overpainting acquiring a higher refractive
index and thus becoming more transparent. Some of the paintings by the
17th century Dutchman De Hooch are prone to this condition. He over painted
somewhat thinly, and black and white tiles can be seen ghosting through
women's dresses and furniture and misty figures appear.
Pigment in Paint
For details of lakes, glazes and other artist-colourants, see: Colour
Pigments, History, Types.
A rapid rough sketch of a landscape executed out-of-doors from nature;
generally it is the intention that it should act as a guide for working
up a larger, more finished picture.
Individual or group or self portraits. See also: Best
A technique of illusionistic painting, usually ceiling frescoes, that
appears to push the confines of the room into imaginary space. Practitioners
included Andrea Mantegna, Correggion, Pietro da Cortona, and Andrea Pozzo.
Italian for the 15th century. Usually used in connection with the fine
arts in Italy (1400-1500).
Back to Top