Saturday, May 5, 2012

Mahogany Panels

Though I finished these particular ones a while ago, I wished to specifically write about this. Turns out I was anticipating Turner himself on this project! At one point he set out to paint on mahogany tablets himself.

He either used a fairly dark, wood-coloured ground, or abstained from ground altogether. The latter choice is a bit dangerous, since one always runs the risk that the paints themselves will change due to interacting with the wood, or dry out and flake away. It is known, however, that at times Turner was not punctillious about his process.
A source called Studies in Conservation, issue 39, page 145 states:
 Some of Turner's painting are on canvases prepared by the artist and his father, and the primings have an unusual, proteinaceous medium. So, too, do sketches on wooden or muslin supports. Turner is regarded as an artists unconcerned about hsi materials and the ultimate fate of his works: a study of the types of support which he employed for sketches, experimental works and exhibited paintings throws light on this aspect of his personality, and perhaps on the status of doubtful works.

When I first set out to do these, I unfortunately did not realize that he'd painted these on a wood coloured ground as opposed to white, so I sought to amend this by giving all a dark undercoat of burnt umber. I did note, as did page -- of "Turner at the Tate", that the paintings themselves were affected, hue-wise, by the darker underlying backing, but I did not connect this with a darker/nonexistent ground till I got around to making them - the last one in the image at left shows my mistake - the others show them with darker ground - as does the one above.

From top to bottom:
The Thames Near Walton Bridges - c. 1807

Windsor Castle from Salt Hill - c. 1807

Godalming from the South - c. 1807

Treetops & Sky - c. 1807

These, along with others I've finished and posted about here, represent an era of
tells us this about these pieces:

"...largely through pencil sketches but occasionally through watercolours and even oils, Turner studied from nature, making long tours in connection with the topographical engravings that provided him with financial security even when his paintings outstripped contemporary taste. The group of small sketches on mahogany veneer, painted on the Thames perhaps in 1807, are outstanding examples, almost rivalling Constable in their freshness and directness. A series of larger sketches on canvas of similar subjects together with scenes on the Thames estuary are more directly studies for the finished paintings of English subjects of about 1807 to 1813, which culminated in 'Frosty Morning' (seen here).

As previously noted, one of the rewarding aspects of this projects is the fact that styles and techniques vary so very much. Some (especially his earlier work) are a study in detailed execution. Others are color studies - others explore glazing techniques. Subject matter vary so much as well - portraits, landscapes, historical, biblical scenes as well as the naval ones that first drew me to the project. This variation is the main thing that allows the successful continuation of this project - and what makes it so rewarding.

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