Sunday, May 9, 2010

Loading

“Loading is a term applied to laying colours in thick masses on the lights, so as to make them project considerably from the surface, with the view of their being strongly illuminated by the light that falls on the picture, and thus mechanically to aid in producing roundness and relief, or in giving a sparkling effect to polished or glittering objects ; this artifice however, must be had recourse to sparingly, otherwise it defeats its own object, and gives the execution a coarse and vulgar air.”

—From an 1845 painting manual
Detail from a Rembrandt self portrait.
Previously on GJ: Impasto

19 comments:

Erik Bongers said...

What an unusual expression on Rembrandt's face. He stares at us with his eyebrows raised. It adds a snapshot effect to the portrait and makes him look like a modern man.

As always, the light is beautiful.

Erik Bongers said...

...as if he's staring right into our time.

Sakievich said...

what's the painting manual called?

Walter Wick said...

I've always been fascinated by this effect. Rembrant certainly was an early master of "loading", even if it want called that then. Are there earlier examples? The 16th centurary Venitians seemed to have loosened thier brushwork and let the canvas do some work in emulating textures - especially fabric - and allowed slight ridges of paint remain. Has anyone done a history of the tecnique?

Andrew Wales said...

I remember reading that his critics said you could pick his paintings up by the nose. Ha, ha. Actually that was from a fictional biography of him, so it may have been the author's invention.

Darren said...

Walter, the Italian/Venetian term, Pittoresco describes what you are talking about.

Philip Sohm has written a book about it called Pittoresco: Marco Boschini, his Critics, and their Critiques of Painterly Brushwork in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Italy

Also, arguably the most famous version of loading is van Dyck's Portrait of Cornelis van der Geest in the National Gallery, London. The thickness of the paint on the forehead, highlights in the eyes and the entire ruff collar are amazing.

Steve said...

An unexpected example of loading is Norman Rockwell's painting, Freedom from Want: Thanksgiving. When you look at this painting at the NR Museum, you're struck by the thickness of the white paint, especially on the top of Grandma's hair. Given that the painting was done for published reproduction, rather than gallery viewing, it surprised me how "loaded" NR chose to make the bright highlights.

Don Cox said...

One could describe Van Gogh's paintings as "loaded" all over. I expect the author you quote would see them as "coarse and vulgar".

jeff said...

I think one has to remember that the idea was to have the thicker passages play against the transparent shadow areas to create the illusion of depth.

You can see this in the early work of Rembrandt, particularly the self portraits in his twenties.

James Gurney said...

Sakievich, the title is "The Guide to Oil Painting by Kownky, Dillon, and Rowney, London. I was mistaken, the date is 1842, and I'm indebted to Graydon Parrish for telling me about it.

Steve, Yes--Rockwell being a huge fan of Rembrandt and the old masters would have absorbed some of his paint texture ideas from them. He described his practice of pretexturing a canvas, both overall and in the light areas, in the book "Norman Rockwell Illustrator" "Rockwell on Rockwell," and I talk about pretexturing in "Imaginative Realism."

Darren, thanks for that term pittoresco.

Jeff, I agree, the classic pre-impressionist aesthetic was to have a variety of texture, smoother in the darks and more impasto in the lights, quite different from Van Gogh and other overall thick painters.

Erik--What a wonderful expression. To me it seems to accompany a sigh and "Oh, it's YOU posing again..."

Frank P. Ordaz said...

I always wanted to know what that thick application of paint was called in Italian... now I know Pittoresco...

thanks

Sakievich said...

http://books.google.com/books?id=M_oDAAAAQAAJ&dq=The%20Guide%20to%20Oil%20Painting&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

There it is in Google Books.

Also, the news is going over the interwebs that the great Frazetta has passed onto the great studio in the sky.

Purple Artist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Purple Artist said...

I just googled it. Sigh. Frank Frazetta was 82. At least he led a full life. The biographical movie about him was fascinating, especially how he compensated for the stroke that left him partially paralyzed.

While in art school, I was at a loss at how to suggest an intense light in a candle flame. Then, I saw a Rembrandt exhibit. There was a painting that had a thick glob of white paint—lead, probably. That was an "aha" moment for me.

Darren said...

Frank, I think that pittoresco is more properly defined as picturesque.

Nonetheless, in the sense that Boschini was using it, it's more like painterly brushwork. The is not only thick paint but also the idea of thinner areas as well. An intentional combination and the use of the canvas weave along with strokes of paint.

Sohm spent a whole book on the term so I'll not do better. :)

Impasto might be closer to the term you are looking for?

My Pen Name said...

sargent's interior in venice uses this effect on the man in the lower right hand corner -
http://jssgallery.org/Paintings/An_Interior_in_Venice.htm
i didn't appreciate it until i saw it in person recently.

Mario said...

I agree that the common meaning of
pittoresco is picturesque. Impasto is in fact an italian word, meaning a mixture, paste, pulp (like dough). And, of course, in painting it's used in the same meaning as in english.

As far as I know, the first painter who used impasto was Titian.

Walter Wick said...

Darren, thanks for the tip. I'll check out Sohm's book at some point. Another good book is Venetian Color by Paul Hills. He doesn't address impasto in detail, but he does suggest that Titian, who had worked in mosaics, understood the apparent increase in luminosity of black and white checkerboard pattern versus an all white region of tiles (If I'm remembering the passage correctly). I thought that was interesting, because it seems to me that impasto increases the apparent luminosity, not just because of specular highlights on ridges of paint, but also because of the pockets of shadows in the those same highlight areas.

Anyway, the book is a favorite of mine:

http://www.amazon.com/Venetian-Colour-Marble-Painting-1250-1550/dp/0300081359

Darren said...

Walter, I was either unaware or had forgotten that Titian had some mosaic background. I'll need to source that a bit and the book you mentioned is now in my library requests. Thanks.