Thursday, October 25, 2018

An Oil Sketch by Frederic Church

Frederic Church, View of Wimmis, Valley of the Simmental, Switzerland
1868, oil on paper mounted on canvas, 32.4 x 50.5 cm


Sheridan said...

I have never heard of mounting paper on canvas. Why would he do that? Wouldn't a solid substrate be the normal choice?

rock995 said...

Dries quickly? Easy to stack and carry several at a time?

Sheridan said...

This doesn't answer the question "Why mount it on canvas?" You can paint on paper and leave it that way. I don't even see a reason to mount the paper to the canvas first, and then paint on it.

Paul S said...

I would love to see a larger photo of this work. The detail looks great.

Sheridan said...

Sorry to spout more than my 2 cents worth, but this interested me enough to do a little research on the topic. Mr. Gurney makes this blog educational in nature, so I felt the following may be somewhat enlightening to readers.

The following information is from "The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques,by Ralph Mayer, revised edition, ninth printing, Dec. 1964. There is a section titled: "Painting on paper not Recommended". The entirety of the writing is about a page long describing what has been tried, and what caused it to fail. I'm sure great improvements have been made in materials since this book was written, but they wouldn't help the painting depicted here. The book states that paintings on paper should only be done as sketches or research, not as gallery pieces.

In part the writing states: " I know of no oil paintings on paper, regardless of whether they were glued onto or backed with boards or stretched linen, that have survived beyond thirty or thirty-five years without treatment by professional restorers. Parting from the support by blistering or bursting away, and crumbling and mildewing are some of the common ills. Paper and oil paint do not seem to go well together, mechanically or optically"

Makes me wonder if this painting has required any work to preserve it, if Mr. Church knew something others didn't, or if Mr. Mayer was ill informed. I've never found the Mayer Handbook to be wrong, but I always try to keep an open mind. I was surprised to find this info in it.

The painting is quite nice (much different than the Church paintings I've seen), and thanks for the post James

Steve said...

Arches has made a paper specifically for oil paint for a few years now. I mount it to a birch panel with Golden GAC 100. Seems to hold up well, though it hasn’t been around long enough for a track record measured in decades, let alone centuries.

James Gurney said...

Sheridan, As I understand it, Mayer might be right only if one were to paint directly on the paper. It was common in the past to protect the surface with a coating of shellac. Nowadays you could use acrylic polymer for the same purpose, which is to keep the solvents and oils from invading the paper. Albert Bierstadt, a near contemporary of Church, often did his plein air paintings on paper, which he pinned into the inside of the wooden painting box. The studies on paper were later mounted to canvas. As far as I know they have survived in excellent condition.

Loretta said...

I started painting on brown paper bag coated with shellac. It took away the scary aspect of wasting good canvass while learning. It is light for those hikes where weight is crucial to comfort. Now I can afford better supports but still love painting on paper, shellac is non toxic, dries fast and smells good. The surface is divine.

James Gurney said...

We had a teacher named Paul Souza at Art Center who had us paint in oil on grey-brown chip board sealed with shellac. Here's a post.

Sheridan said...

So to get back to the original question, why were they mounted on canvas? Was it purely for framing? What other reason? It's not the painting on paper that puzzles me , it's the "mounted on canvas".

evanbowman said...

Although these paintings on paper have survived well, I wonder what kind of paper it was. In 1868, most paper was pressed from cotton or linen rags. I think there would have been a period, between the adoption of wood pulp papers around 1870, until the invention of modern acid free papers, where painting on paper supports wouldn't have been a good idea.

Timothy Bollenbaugh said...


Just a guess, maybe an ignorant guess, but given Mr. Gurney's information, would it then be possible to roll the canvas + paper for transport or storage, or if the study is a success, it could be left on the canvas to be framed? Could he peel it off if he didn't like it?.

I wouldn't know, so this is just for your more informed consideration to weigh in or discard.

I'm interested.


Rich said...

Perhaps he just didn't want to "spoil" a canvas with such a sketch: So he just "papered" it over.

Nowadays a "sketch" like this would be considered a great work of art.
In those times perhaps it may not even have been worth "spoiling / soiling" a canvas for the task in question.(?)

Of course the Simmental sketch it is just great: It's noon time on a summer's day, in my view: The way he got the colours right...and the valeurs....

Godo said...

The technique is called "marouflage"; see:
Oil - or acrylic paintings on paper are fixed on canvas with a special
rabbit-skin glue. It is an very old technique.

Anonymous said...

The OC Notary, Traveling Notary, Apostille, Live Scan, Consulate, Translation, Document, Recording & Retrieval service

We are California’s 24/7 Traveling Notary Service. We value your time! Let us save you money, gas and frustration by Traveling to you. You will see why we are the #1 Notary Service in California.

apostille, traveling notary, power of attorney, grantdeed, affidavit, mobile notary

Schedule your appointment today!

Sheridan said...

Godo. The term marouflage refers to adhering canvas to a wall, the way many murals are accomplished. The many definitions from several sources that GOOGLE lists (including yours), I saw none that mention any thing but mounting canvas to a wall.

The question still remains "Why would you mount paper on canvas?" There has to be someone out there in GurneyJourney Land that can supply the answer

Godo said...

Sheridan. The English WIKI definition of marouflage is somewhat "antique". If you switch to the French WIKI it says: (I translated into English):

F: Le marouflage consiste à fixer une surface légère (papier, toile) sur un support plus solide et rigide (toile, bois, mur) à l'aide d'une colle forte dite maroufle qui durcit en séchant. C'est une opération particulièrement utilisée en peinture d'art et en restauration.

E: marouflage consists in fixing a light surface (paper, canvas) on a more solid and rigid support (canvas, wood, wall) by means of a strong glue named maroufle which hardens when drying. This procedure is used in art painting and restoration.

Voilà; in France we use it for framing purposes (tout simplement); you can present a painting on paper on a stretched canvas. The marouflage flattens the paper and it can be presented without glass.

Bonjour to GurneyJourney Land

Sheridan said...

Thanks for the information. I had found that Church did this several times, but no mention of why. Thanks again.