Thursday, August 1, 2019

Daniel Gardner's Gouache-and-Pastel Portraits

Daniel Gardner, Portrait of Mary Whitbread, later Lady Grey (1770-1858)
Pastel and gouache on paper, 1004 by 701 mm

Daniel Gardner (1750-18050 was a British portrait painter who painted at relatively small sizes sizes using a combination of gouache and pastel.

Daniel GardnerPortrait of Luke Gardiner, Lord Mountjoy
1773, pastel, 10¼ x 8 in. (26 x 20.3 cm.)
According to Wikipedia, he was eccentric: "He sometimes would ask his sitters to show up in his studio at five o'clock in the morning."

"There he would only allow the sitters to be present. In his studio Gardner had a specially constructed easel with locking shutters since he refused to allow his sitters to see the work in progress. Gardner never travelled without this special easel."

Daniel Gardner, unfinished small portrait
showing some of his underpainting color.
1921 book describes his materials and working method. Because there's a lot of information in this book, and I'm not familiar with a lot of the techniques and materials, I'll quote it below at length for those of you who may want to geek out and study this method in detail:

"Gardner’s method was to paint the picture very roughly in water-colour first of all, and to put a good body of colour over the paper before he started working with his pastel, or with his own peculiar arrangement of pastel mingled with some medium.

"In the account that is given us by [a similar painter] William Sandby, we learn that Sandby went over his paper with “isinglass jelly mixed with a little honey to prevent the paper sinking or absorbing the colour, and when nearly dry, painted the whole of the paper over with azure, which he composed of verditer, common powder blue, and white, and which he painted pretty thick in some parts of the picture, and diluted more with isinglass as he approached the horizon and lighter parts of the sky.” 

"Gardner appears to have adopted somewhat the same method, and there are places in most of his pictures, especially in those where the sky is depicted, where the paper on which he worked, covered with this coat of azure, can be seen. In this way he differed from Sandby, who always covered up the coat of azure with his work. 

"The trees and their foliage Gardner put in with pencil, and he then appears to have shaded this part of the work with a neutral tint very like that which Sandby used, probably composed of Prussian blue, Indian ink and white. With this sort of neutral tint he would seem to have laid out what may be termed the anatomy of all his backgrounds, and the outlines of the figures that were to come, but what medium he used, when he came to apply his pastel 

"How he came upon this preparation, we cannot tell. Tradition says that he made use of various media, that he diluted honey with gin, that he used sugar and water, made very thick in the form of a kind of caramel, that he used white of egg, isinglass, and gum arabic, and one story is to the effect that at a country house where he had run short of what he required, he went out into the village, and purchased some treacle, and diluting that down with gin, was able to proceed with his work. 

"How far one can accept these various traditions is doubtful, because there is a certain uniformity in Gardner’s work, which would lead one to imagine that, having once adopted a special medium that pleased him, he used it again and again. There are, however, some pictures, notably sketches in the Heathcote collection, which appear to differ from his ordinary method, and may perhaps have thus been painted when he was experimenting with various materials. 

"He is said to have ground most of his own pastels, and it is probably because he himself prepared them that they have remained to the present day so fresh and bright in appearance. “ The intimate commixture of chalk with the pure colour,” said Sir Arthur Church, “ is the very means of their preservation from the destructive agencies that attack other pigments.” 

"Attention may perhaps be directed at this stage to the fact that, unlike oil paint, pastel does not darken, nor can it fade, if the crayons are properly made, and that, so far from pastel being, as so many people have thought, “ an unreliable medium, fragile and uncertain, and likely to suffer seriously in any of the vicissitudes to which works of art are ordinarily exposed,” it happens to be, of “ all the mediums that are at the disposal of the artist, the one least liable to change, and the easiest to preserve in good condition.” It is quite extraordinary what a power of resistance pastel portraits have, even if roughly used, and portraits by Russell, J. R. Smith, Riley, or Gardner, are noticeable, wherever they can be seen, for the extraordinary way in which the colours have retained not “ only their brilliance, but their very crispness of touch, and their charming surface bloom.” 

"It is to be noticed that Gardner’s pastels do not present that white and chalky texture which is to be noticed in those of Cotes. The colours were far more skilfully blended than were the pastels used by Cotes, but in certain respects they are not as good as some of the pigments used by John Russell, whose colours are more brilliant and sharper than those of Gardner, the latter appearing to prefer a certain browner tint than did Russell. Russell’s pastels were, however, put on dry, the majority of Gardner’s work must have been done with the brush, though there are places in almost all his pictures where the point has been used, and where certain definite pieces of colour have been, in my opinion, most clearly produced by the dry pastel. 

"It has been interesting to examine some of the colours which Gardner used, a few tiny pieces of dry colours having been preserved by one member of the family. As already mentioned, he obtained his colours mostly from Roberson and Miller, but a few of them came from the old house of Newman in Soho Square, which had been founded by a member of the Roberson family. The black that he used appears to have been Lamp-Black, the white, Flake White. The browns were evidently Vandyke Brown and Burnt Siena and Bistre. Vermilion, in very pure condition, he used on the lips. 

"Unfortunately, in his foliage, it is quite evident that he made use of Yellow Lake, a colour which, with blue, formed a fine green, but which was by no means permanent, and which, in many instances, has faded away completely, leaving the blue behind it, and giving to the whole foliage of the background a curious blue tinge. Another green which he unluckily used was Scheele’s Green, which can only have been just introduced at his time, as it is said to have been discovered in 1778. It is an arsenite of copper, with an excess of copper oxide, a lovely colour, which became exceedingly popular, almost at once, but little dependence could be placed upon it, and where it has been used by Gardner, the result is most unsatisfactory. 

"His blue is certainly as a rule Ultramarine, which in his time could be obtained in most excellent quality; it has not been adulterated. He also certainly used Indigo and Smalt. It is possible that he also used Coeruleum, a pigment obtained from heating oxide of tin mixed with nitrate of cobalt. There is a tiny lump of Blue Verditer in the packet of colours, sometimes called Chessylite, and it is probable that he occasionally used that colour. His yellow was probably what the artists of that day called Patent Yellow, a compound of cobalt and potassium called Aureolin, and he may also have used Lemon Yellow, barium chromate, which Sir Arthur Church said was the most stable of all the chromes. Had Gardner confined his attention in yellows to these colours only, the results would have been more satisfactory, but it is evident that he used not only Yellow Lake, but also Gamboge. For his reds he probably made considerable use of Venetian Red, and of some other fine colour, of which Vermilion formed an important part, but there is also little doubt that the Madders were in use by him, and also Carmine and the Cochineal Lakes, and that would account for the fact that in several of his pictures the reds have browned down to some greyish or swarthy colour. 

"It would appear in some instances as though the flesh painting was entirely in dry pastel, the draperies and backgrounds in gouache, and he appears to have had some curious method, perhaps like that adopted by Russell, of smoothing and rubbing in his dry pastel, so that it held on to the tooth of the paper and blended. In most cases the faces are painted with the utmost skill, the modelling exceedingly delicate and subtle, and generally in dry pastel only, contrasting with the very broad and almost rugged manner in which the draperies are put in, without any underpainting, so far as can be seen upon close inspection. Many of the pictures, therefore, present the strange combination in one work, of water-colour alone, pastel alone, and gouache over water-colour, the whole three being used with great discretion, and producing a very charming effect. It is believed that very little medium was used to hold the particles of the pastel together, so much so, that in some of the paintings there is a danger of it shaking away from its body-colour background. 

"An artist has suggested to me that the gouache was used before the first painting was quite dry, and there are places in some of Gardner’s pictures where this artist believes that the tacky surface of the underpainting gave the necessary hold to the dry pastel, and in these particular places the pastel was put on absolutely dry, combined with no medium at all. This may be the case in isolated passages, but it seems to me to be unlikely to be true in a general way. What is worthy of careful consideration, however, is the fact that certain unmistakable qualities appear in his pictures when he has to deal with mingled colour. 

"Gardner appears to have loved the shot effects of silks and other textures, and also the somewhat similar effect of rich broken colour produced by mingling two or three different kinds of tulle together in a headdress, and this fact is almost unmistakable evidence in deter- mining whether a picture in gouache or in oil is by Gardner or not. Sometimes it would almost appear as though he had used the pastel mixed with a gum medium to produce transparency, and then, over that, had put a further treatment of pastel with some other medium, so that in places, the earlier work gleams through the latter, producing a very extra- ordinary effect of shot colour. 

"This shot effect appears in the work of no other pastellist, so far as I am aware. His draughtsmanship was very unequal, and at times very inaccurate, in fact, it may be stated broadly that this was the fault of all the painters of that day, with the exception of Reynolds and Gainsborough, and Gardner worked so rapidly that he did not give anything like sufficient time to attend to the accuracies of draughtsmanship. His figures are often too tall, the limbs very frequently too long, the composition at times crowded and unsatisfactory in its arrangement, but at other times, when he had but one single figure to deal with, or was painting, for example, a mother and child, or, still better, when he had only a half-length figure in an oval to depict, he was much more careful, and the results were eminently satisfactory."
Excerpt is from: Daniel Gardner, painter in pastel and gouache; a brief account of his life and works, 1921

1 comment:

Michaelangelo Reina said...

This is a very interesting exploration of the artist's medium and process. We are lucky to be able to engage in considering their work from that point view so long after.