Underpainting

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In art, an underpainting is an initial layer of paint applied to a ground, which serves as a base for subsequent layers of paint. Underpaintings are often monochromatic and help to define color values for later painting. There are several different types of underpainting, such as veneda, verdaccio, morellone and grisaille. [1]

Verdaccio is an Italian name for the mixture of black, white, and yellow pigments resulting in a grayish or yellowish soft greenish brown.

<i>Grisaille</i> painting technique

A grisaille is a painting executed entirely in shades of grey or of another neutral greyish colour. It is particularly used in large decorative schemes in imitation of sculpture. Many grisailles include a slightly wider colour range, like the Andrea del Sarto fresco illustrated. Paintings executed in brown are referred to as brunaille, and paintings executed in green are called verdaille.

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Underpainting gets its name because it is painting that is intended to be painted over (see overpainting) in a system of working in layers. There is a popular misconception that underpainting should be monochromatic, perhaps in gray-scales. A multi-color underpainting was thought to be more useful by artists such as Giotto (whose technique is described in detail by Cennino Cennini), as well as by Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden (whose technique has been studied with modern scientific analysis). This technique was pioneered by Titian in the High Renaissance. The colors of the underpainting can be optically mingled with the subsequent overpainting, without the danger of the colors physically blending and becoming muddy. If underpainting is done properly, it facilitates overpainting. If it seems that one has to fight to obscure the underpainting, it is a sign that it was not done properly.

Overpainting can mean the final layers of paint, over some type of underpainting, in a system of working in layers. It can also mean later paint added by restorers, or an artist or dealer wishing to "improve" or update an old image—a very common practice in the past. The underpainting gives a context in which the paint-strokes of the overpainting become more resonant and powerful. When properly done, overpainting does not need to completely obscure the underpainting. It is precisely the interaction of the two that gives the most interesting effects.

Working in layers is a system for creating artistic paintings that involve the use of more than one layer of paint.

Giotto Italian painter and architect

Giotto di Bondone, known mononymously as Giotto and Latinised as Giottus, was an Italian painter and architect from Florence during the Late Middle Ages. He worked during the Gothic/Proto-Renaissance period. Giotto's contemporary, the banker and chronicler Giovanni Villani, wrote that Giotto was "the most sovereign master of painting in his time, who drew all his figures and their postures according to nature" and of his publicly recognized "talent and excellence". In his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, Giorgio Vasari described Giotto as making a decisive break with the prevalent Byzantine style and as initiating "the great art of painting as we know it today, introducing the technique of drawing accurately from life, which had been neglected for more than two hundred years".

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<i>Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata</i> (van Eyck) Two unsigned paintings completed around 1428–1432 attributed to Jan van Eyck

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References

  1. Underpaint. In: Weyer, Angela; Roig Picazo, Pilar; Pop, Daniel; Cassar, JoAnn; Özköse, Aysun; Vallet, Jean-Marc; Srša, Ivan, eds. (2015). EwaGlos. European Illustrated Glossary Of Conservation Terms For Wall Paintings And Architectural Surfaces. English Definitions with translations into Bulgarian, Croatian, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Romanian, Spanish and Turkish. Petersberg: Michael Imhof. p. 60. doi:10.5165/hawk-hhg/233.