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Fresco Painting

Fresco Painting
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Author: Ward James
Title: Fresco Painting
Release Date: 2018-10-24
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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FRESCO   PAINTING

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FRESCO   PAINTING
ITS   ART   AND   TECHNIQUE

WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO THE BUONO
AND SPIRIT FRESCO METHODS
BY
JAMES WARD
AUTHOR OF
“PRINCIPLES OF ORNAMENT,” “COLOUR HARMONY AND CONTRAST,”
“HISTORIC ORNAMENT,” “PROGRESSIVE DESIGN,” ETC.


With Four Plates in Colour and Thirty-one Half-tone Illustrations
of Italian and other Fresco Paintings

LONDON
CHAPMAN AND HALL, Ltd.
1909

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Richard Clay & Sons, Limited,
BREAD STREET HILL, E.C., AND
BUNGAY, SUFFOLK.

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PREFACE

I have endeavoured in this treatise to place before students somepractical hints in the methods and processes of fresco painting, whichare the outcome of my experience in the practice of the “buon-fresco,”and the “spirit-fresco” systems of wall decoration. As to thestereochrome, or German “water-glass,” and its later variety, the Keimsprocess of fresco painting, I do not pretend to have a definiteknowledge, having no practical experience in painting in these methods,but, on seeing the condition of some frescos in England which have beenexecuted in stereochromy, I should prefer to trust to the buon-fresco orto the spirit-fresco mediums when it is a question of the permanency ofwall paintings.

It is common enough to-day to hear and to read of the condemnation offresco painting by critics, and even by some eminent artists, all ofwhom seem to echo each other in pointing out the failures in theexamples executed on the walls of the Houses of Parliament and otherplaces; and all agree, because of these failures, that fresco paintingis impossible in this country, owing to the dampness of the{vi} climate.Our damp climate seems to have a deal to answer for, but it is hardlyfair to blame it for the ignorance of some of our mid-Victorian artistsas to the nature and behaviour of the materials used in fresco painting,and for their possibly limited knowledge of the chemistry of colours andthe after action of caustic lime on the colours they used.

I trust that the technical notes and observations on some of the Italianfrescos may be of interest and of some value to students of decorativeart.

J. Ward.
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CONTENTS

CHAPTER I
 PAGE
THE RELATIONSHIP OF MURAL PAINTING TO ARCHITECTURE 1
CHAPTER II
MURAL DECORATION—SYSTEMS AND METHODS8
CHAPTER III
FRESCO-BUONO PROCESS—COLOURS—PREPARATION OF THE WALL—METHOD OF EXECUTION12
CHAPTER IV
PAINTING OF FLESH AND DRAPERIES—PERMANENCE OF BUON-FRESCO25
CHAPTER V
SPIRIT FRESCO PAINTING31
CHAPTER VI
TECHNICAL NOTES ON THE COMPOSITION, COLOUR, AND PRESENT STATE OF SOME ITALIAN FRESCOS39
CHAPTER VII
FRESCO PAINTINGS BY GOZZOLI AND PERUGINO{viii}51
CHAPTER VIII
THE WORK OF PINTURICCHIO AND GHIRLANDAJO56
CHAPTER IX
FRESCOS BY ANDREA DEL SARTO, LUINI, G. FERRARI, RAFFAELLE AND MICHAEL ANGELO63
INDEX:A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,K,L,M,P,R,S,T,U,V,W.71

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LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

PLATE   To face page
1.The Arts of Peace (colour). Lord LeightonFrontispiece
2.Fragment of Ancient Fresco from Tiryns 10
3.Portion of Fresco Border (colour). After Sir E. J. Poynter, P.R.A.20
4.Trial Piece of Buon Fresco. G. F. Watts, R.A.23
5.Trial Piece of Buon Fresco. G. F. Watts, R.A.25
6.Group of Three Figures (colour). G. F. Watts, R.A.27
7.St. Stephen before his Accusers, and the Stoning of St. Stephen. Sir E. J. Poynter, P.R.A.30
8.Detail from the Arts of War. Lord Leighton32
9.Detail from the Arts of War. Lord Leighton34
10.Detail from the Arts of Peace. Lord Leighton.37
11.The Birth of the Virgin. Giotto39
12.The Death of St. Francis. Giotto40
13.St. Louis, King of France. Giotto42
14.The Meeting of SS. Joachim and Anna. Giotto43
15.Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene. Fra Angelico44
16.The Deposition in the Sepulchre. Fra Angelico46
17.Detail of the Crucifixion. Fra Angelico47
18.The Tribute Money (colour). Masaccio49
19.Angels, from the Paradise. B. Gozzoli51
20.Angels, from the Paradise. B. Gozzoli53
21.St. Benedict. Perugino54
22.St. John. Perugino55
23.Detail from the Christ’s Charge to Peter. Perugino{x}56
24.St. Catherine disputing before Maximianus. Pinturicchio57
25.Detail of the St. Catherine Fresco. Pinturicchio58
26.The Nativity, Spello Cathedral. Pinturicchio59
27.Florentine Lady. Ghirlandajo60
28.The Death of St. Francis. Ghirlandajo61
29.Florentine Lady. Ghirlandajo62
30.Detail from the Birth of the Virgin. Ghirlandajo63
31.Fresco of an Infant Angel. B. Luini64
32.The Virgin and Child. B. Luini65
33.St. Lucy sentenced to Death. Jacopo d’Avanzo66
34.The Fire in the Borgo. Raffaelle68
35.Figure of Adam, Sistine Chapel. Michael Angelo69

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FRESCO   PAINTING

CHAPTER I
THE RELATIONSHIP OF MURAL PAINTING TO ARCHITECTURE

When considering the subject of mural painting, and indeed the progressand development of art generally, of the so-called “fine arts,” or ofthe lesser arts that minister to the uses and wants of everyday life, wecannot regard them as isolated creations of human activity apart fromtheir legitimate connection with the laws and principles of goodarchitecture. The progress, development, culmination, and decadence ofarchitecture synchronize with the similar stages of painting andsculpture.

In a noble building the special functions of the three sister arts areclearly defined; each supplies its own distinct qualities of expressionto make up the general artistic unity. The severe lines and proportionalrhythm of the architecture are enriched by sculpture, which in its turnis chastened and modified by the contiguous severity of the former,{2}while painting adds the necessary colour finish to the bare spaces thatare enclosed by the mouldings and constructional lines of thearchitecture, borrowing at the same time much of its dignity,restfulness of form, simplicity of composition, and whatever else thatadds to its nobility and monumental fitness, from its close associationwith the architecture. Thus, while the three arts are each limited totheir own special functions, they, at the same time, would appear toassimilate from each other what is lacking in themselves, and socontribute to the complete artistic harmony.

Painting, as the most ornate of the three, owing to its greater power ofexpression and beauty of colour, must nevertheless be employed todecorate, in the true sense of the word, the plain spaces in abuilding, and in the largest and simplest manner, without any definiteattempts to represent the true facts of nature, or at least it should besuggestive of such facts rather than descriptive of them.

The arrangement and composition of line, restfulness of the masses ofform, and the harmonic balance and purity of colour are among theprimary essentials of mural painting, and all these indispensablerequisites of this form of art are due to its contact with architecture.While bearing this in mind, we must not forget that painting has itsspecial functions apart from those of architecture, which include acontrolling power over form and colour, and the faculty of illustratingideas, by means{3} of the representation of a theme or an incident, asubject or a story.

Now if the essentials of monumental painting, which we have named, andthe special functions of the art of the painter are united in any schemeof mural decoration, the result would be an ideal work of decorativeart, examples of which may be found in the frescos of Giotto, and inthose of the majority of the Italian painters who followed him, down tothe sublime creations of Michael Angelo.

The older art of the Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Mediævalschools was, in each case, influenced by, and in perfect harmony withthe architecture of the respective periods, and not less, but even moreso, were the painting and sculpture of Italy from the middle of thethirteenth century till the end of the sixteenth century. The Byzantineand Romanesque mosaics which decorate the churches of Ravenna, Veniceand Rome are dignified and sculpturesque in treatment, and from anornamental point of view, admirably fill the architectural spaces ofboth walls and vaulted ceilings. The artists of these ancient schoolsrightly treated the wall spaces as flat surfaces, the wall beingstrictly considered as such, and no attempt was made to treat thesubject of the painting in pictorial perspective, or to give the wallthe illusion of a window. The subject or incident, was also, for themost part, mystic in character, and elevated in a spiritual sense, sothat the very soul of their art{4} was expressed and symbolized; whilewhat we may call the bodily part, either from a want of their power ofexpressing it or from a careless or studied neglect of this side oftheir art, was limited and incomplete. And even when, in later times,the science of art, as expressed in anatomy and perspective, was wellunderstood, this traditional treatment of the design was followed out bythe Italian artists, both in their mosaics and wall paintings, and wasnever lost sight of by the painters subsequent to Giotto, until theseventeenth century, when the general decadence of art had set in.

The three absolute essentials of ancient and mediæval painting, whichalso characterized the best work of the Renaissance, appear to have beena striving after the symbolic expression of the spirit of the subject, arestfulness and dignity of form, and the beauty of colour. Whatever elsewe look for, we ought to find these three essentials in a successfulwork of monumental painting. In this kind of art, and indeed in all art,small things should be sacrificed to great, and the commonplace ormatter-of-fact to the rendering or expression of the idea; inparentheses, it might be pointed out, that in a general sense thetendency of the art of the present day is towards a greater dexterity ofhandling closer representations of the facts of nature, but lesssincerity of aim.

The more important paintings of the fourteenth and fifteenth centurieswere those which decorated{5} the walls of the Italian churches andpalaces, and the authors of these works were not only painters, but themajority of

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