Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Recreating Paintings in 'The Temple of Flora'

Robert John Thornton (circa 1768-1837)
The Queen
 Aquatint, mezzotint and stipple engravings finished by hand
Painter- Peter Henderson
Thornton’s Temple of Flora combines the scientific with the artistic. The images portray the worlds most exotic flowers and plants at the time placed into vast mountainous landscapes creating an overall spectacular sight for viewers. Thornton worked with various painters to create the images in paint, then with the help of engraver James Caldwell to recreate them in print using Intaglio printing methods.

Intaglio, coming from the Italian word intaglione, is an ancient printmaking process dating back to 400 B.C. in which ink is applied to a copper or zinc plate, wiped off the surface than printed under high pressure. Ink that remains in the grooves of the plate is transferred onto the paper from the pressure of the press. These grooves can be physically scratched into the plate via dry point engraving or etched using feric acid. 

Mezzotint, in addition to engraving and aquatint methods, were used to achieve gradation without the use of line or crosshatching. This is a method where the engraver uses a tool called a ‘Roulette’ to make small repeating dots or lines, creating the illusion of shadow and/or light. Small rotating teeth create grooves in the plate for ink to hold which then transfers to paper when run through a high pressure printing press. All of the prints in Thornton's ‘Temple of Flora’ were hand water-colored after printed to get a full range of color. The prints displayed are from Thornton's Temple of Flora, each one painted by a different artist then re rendered on copper using various methods to replicate the depth and color range of the original. 

Aquatint refers to the process of etching the copper plate with acid instead of physically removing material. The ‘etcher’ prepares the plate with a dusting of fine resin, and then heats the plate to fix the small particles. These small particles act as a stop out to the acid which creates tonal regions on the plate. Areas that touch acid will be etched and will have a tone. The longer the plate is in the acid for, the darker the tone. States or stages of aquatint can be added to create multiple shades of color or tones.

Robert John Thornton  (circa 1768-1837)
The Blue Passion Flower
Aquatint, mezzotint and stipple engravings finished by hand
Painter- Philip Reinagle
Robert John Thornton (circa 1768-1837)
The Persian Cyclamen
 Aquatint, mezzotint and stipple engravings finished by hand
Painter- Abraham Pether (1731-1795)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Charming 18th Century Painting of Birds

Christopher Huet (French, 1694-1759)
"Ruffs in a Landscape"
Oil on canvas
Canvas size: 20 1/2” x 17 3/8”
Literature: Christine E. Jackson, Bird Painting - The Eighteenth Century (Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1994), p. 76
Christopher Huet’s informal and intimate painting places male and female specimens of the species Philomachus pugnax in their natural habitat of marshy wetlands. The bird was first introduced to the English in 1586 when an anonymous writer published an attack upon the large frilly lace ruffs currently the fashion among Elizabethan men and woman. He scornfully likened these extravagant collars to the ruff worn around the neck of the male ruff bird when in breeding plummage.

Huet’s charming painting was most probably designed to appeal to members of the French aristocracy among whom he found continued employment. He specialized in the depiction of natural history subjects as well the interior decoration of houses. His skills were such that his name can be found along side that of Watteau in the account books of the Prince de Conde documenting work completed at the family castle in 1741.

This elegant painting is now on display at Arader Galleries, at 435 Jackson Street, San Francisco. Please call 415-788-5115 with any questions.