Brushstrokes (Part 1) – The Early Masters



what is it about a painting that allows us to differentiate one artist from another how is it that we can distinguish a saison for example from a Rembrandt part of it is the artists selection of colors and their perspective on subject matter but paintings are also unique because of the brushstrokes used by the artist in this video we're going to explore the development of brushstrokes and the masters that made them famous we'll take a look at how the various strokes influenced artistic style as we trace their progression through history beginning with the Middle Ages from the 5th century all the way to the start of the Renaissance in the 1300s there was a limited variety of brushstrokes available to artists because of the nature of the painting mediums that were popular at the time back then artists primarily worked in either fresco or egg tempera fresco and egg tempera limited artists abilities primarily because of their fast drying time a stroke of egg tempera can dry within 5 seconds and that means that shortly after laying down a stroke of paint it would dry and could then very easily leave a hard edge which would create an obvious brush line both paints are pretty much permanent as well so they presented some challenges for artists because of these limitations much of the artwork seen throughout the Middle Ages which would include Byzantine Romanesque and gothic art has a similar look so what brushstrokes did fresco egg tempera and even watercolor artists use at that time in basic terms there were three ways that they would apply the paint one method was to apply strokes of paint next to one another in hopes that they would remain wet long enough to blend before drying they would typically paint in the direction of the form so that any visible lines would coordinate with the image and in egg tempera which had to be applied in very thin layers a section painted this way would be referred to as a glazed glazing which we see throughout history and in oil painting is the slow buildup of thin layers of paint now egg tempera and fresco painters could also use a hatching technique or cross hatching to do this brushstrokes are applied in rapid repetition in the same direction and sometimes also at perpendicular angles which is called cross hatching it's reported that Michelangelo used this technique when painting the Sistine Chapel frescoes and finally an artist could simply paint lines and shapes directly called direct painting intending them to stand alone to communicate something such as a boundary of an eye so when did ole painting come into use well prior to the start of the Renaissance we find that artists did have some knowledge of oil paint but it wasn't until Flemish painter yan van Eyck perfected its use in the early 1400s that the medium started to gain recognition it's important to keep in mind that most artists at this time had been trained in or worked with egg tempera or other water media paints so initially they used oil in the same way in fact today experts sometimes have a hard time distinguishing whether paintings during this time of transition were painted in oil or egg tempera oil paint stays wet much longer than the other paints and has a denser buttery or consistency making it remarkably easy to achieve smooth blends artists especially the innovative ones like Van Eyck must have been thrilled to discover that when they painted strokes side by side as they had with the egg tempera they could now easily blend them together at a relaxed pace producing virtually invisible brush strokes and resulting in beautifully smooth color or value transitions amidst then made the effectiveness of glazing even more powerful when done in oil the transition to oil as a primary painting medium was gradual through the first part of the Renaissance yan Van Dyck was a critical part of this transitional time period the style he developed was characterized by incredible realism minut detail natural light and brilliant color all made possible through his ingenious use of oil paints he had absolutely seamless brushwork and his art appears so fresh as if they could have been painted yesterday some of the artists during this time of transition would actually use both mediums in the same painting including the ingenious Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci da Vinci who was quite an innovator perfected a brush technique called sfumato where the outlines of forms are softened and shadows painted so gently that the image conveys a soft almost misty appearance referred to as Leonardo's smoke he achieved it by painting multiple thin layers and making the changes in value very very gradual it's one of the reasons his paintings had a very unique lifelike appearance around 1500 we see the artist Titian come into the public eye another incredibly important figure in art and someone that would inspire many future generations Titian is really the first artists to show vigorous expressive brushwork often called painterly brushwork a style in which the artist doesn't care whether a stroke shows and in fact uses the lines of the individual stroke to impact the painting even use his brush to dab scrape smooth then scumble a freedom of expression that would increase as he progressed in his career he's also one of the first to use thick paint called impasto beyond emphasizing highlights as we'll see once you add impasto paint as a type of application the thicker paint opens up the door to a wide variety of brushwork another dramatic step in the progression of brush work is seen in the work of El Greco who painted in the late 1500s he completely broke with tradition through his use of very thick paint very unusual colors and a distortion of his figures El Greco looked at Tisha's vigorous brushwork for inspiration rather than the smooth techniques used by many of his contemporaries and started allowing his brush or painting knife to express emotion El Greco is one of the first artists to use a very stiff hog hair bristle brush and he would use it to create textural brush lines you can tell when an artist uses hog hair bristles because unless they smooth it afterwards with a soft bristle brush the bristle lines are visible in the paint he's also one of the first artists to use an early version of a palette knife for painting a close look at his artwork shows that both his brush or knife strokes are broken and he makes no real attempt to smooth the paint his contemporaries thought this was really crude but today critics consider his work an early form of Expressionism now if we compare El Greco's rough creative style with that of his contemporary Caravaggio who also had an incredible impact on the world of painting if we forget about their difference in subject matter and color palette and just look strictly at the artist's style in their brushwork you can see an amazing difference and you can see how the diametrically different brushwork impacts the piece they both had major impacts on future artists Caravaggio's use of light has seamless glazes and his invisible brushwork would inspire artists like Velasquez Rembrandt and Vermeer while El Greco's imaginative expressive brushwork would inspire more modern artists like men a saison Picasso as the use of oil became established artists continued to discover the mediums capabilities they began to see that they didn't need to be so rigid with their brush the paint gave them the opportunity to innovate which is exactly what artists like ribbons Velasquez house and Rembrandt would do throughout the Baroque period these artists would also famously expand the use of impasto using it to more interestingly portray fabrics jewelry and skin texture while artists like Vermeer stuck to the traditional glazing methods peter paul rubens was an admirer of Titian 'he's work and his own work reflected that he was known for his variety of brushwork and is the first artist known to thin his paints with turpentine as he aged his brushwork loosened and began to take on a kind of energy that later artists would incorporate into their own style both spanish artist diego velázquez and Dutch artist Franz house would paint realistic portraits and figures and would find ways to individualize their brushwork Velazquez through a feathered kind of a dry brush technique and Hal's through vivid quick strokes and dabs in fact van Gogh said in a letter to his brother what a joy it is to see Franz house how different it is from the paintings so many of them where everything is carefully smoothed out in the same manner house and Velasquez set the stage for Rembrandt a later contemporary and one of the greatest of all Dutch painters his early work uses the thin smooth glazes common to the period but he became highly influenced by the variety of fluid vigorous brushwork seen in the work of both Titian and Rubens Alaska is house and Rembrandt to me represent an important step in the history of art not only do they masterfully combine thin and thick paint application methods but they begin to popularize the single stroke expression or bravura brushwork which is basically bold daring brushwork in fact Rembrandt has said to have done in one stroke what would have taken others of five passes to accomplish house and Rembrandt were also the first great masters of what we call directional brush strokes where the strokes are intentionally left visible and are painted in a direction or with a certain motion in order to convey an object or an aspect of the painting now around this same time period landscape painting began to take a prominent role in art Jacob fawn Rosedale one of the greatest Dutch landscape painters developed new methods of applying paint in order to better communicate aspects of a landscape he picks up on the idea of using impasto paint to emphasize texture in nature John Constable who was popular in the early 1800s was distinctly influenced by the work of race down but he felt that landscapes should represent which you see not the idealized version that was seen in the Baroque period constable painted oil studies on location in order to better reflect realism what's interesting is his work in these studies is very similar to what we'll see in the work of some of the post-impressionists at the end of that century he developed lively free brush techniques in order to capture the quickly changing elements of nature this freedom initially resembled the style of race Dale and as his career progressed his self-expression did as well he took the use of impasto even further than Royce Dale had were they using a brush or a palette knife and he would Fleck on little bits of off-white paint to add texture to his water in skies which proved to be a slight irritation to his contemporaries and critics you could almost call some of constables work messy due to the incredible amount of textural brushwork that he has in some of his paintings it's not until you see it from a distance that it pulls together to convey reality and of note towards the end of his career he picked up watercolor as a painting medium and employed some of the same brushstrokes and his vision of nature to that medium including using washes of color and scumbling one of constables contemporaries was JMW Turner who was also very innovative especially in the portrayals lighten atmosphere Turner worked in both watercolor and oil paints because of his work with watercolor and he was considered one of the greatest watercolorists of his time he had an additional knowledge of transparency and the benefits of using white surface Turner increasingly used less detail in his work as he advanced in his career his methods of application included thin transparent glazes soft scumbling impasto paint and pallet knife work but he also used directional brushstrokes to the extreme producing an intense sense of drama in his work Turner had a major influence on the Impressionists who were to come shortly after including Claude Monet who discovered Turner's work on a trip to England you

23 thoughts on “Brushstrokes (Part 1) – The Early Masters”

  1. I was almost choked (in a good overwhelming way ), artworks are so emotional, beautiful piece of documentation. So great to be learning from here.

  2. I am so in love with this series, such a fresh take on art history. I hate I just found it, but I am glad that I'm here.

  3. Sorry, but mistakenly calling fresco a type of paint early-on in this video's now got me wondering what else is in this video that's completely wrong. (Fresco is a noun or verb describing a style of painting in which a painting is done rapidly in watercolor on wet plaster.)

  4. Great video, if you ever want to know or practice the right pronunciation of the Flemish and Dutch names, I m at your service 😉

  5. Amazing video!! I do digital drawings, but this makes me wanna try different techniques. Love it. Definitely I´m gonna try some of this. thanks a lot for the inspiration Jill. !! and you have an amazing voice!! Subscribed and thumbs up!! 😃😍

  6. The word ‘egg’ is echoing in my mind after this video. Instead of ‘experts’ I started to hear ‘eggsperts’

  7. There is more to artist's painting than meets the eye. In the case of artist's painting beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder but also in the eye of the painter, the technique of the painter, the patience of the painter, the paint, the canvas.
    Oh sorry I forgot to compliment this video! I'm not an expert but to me it seems to be well done.

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