Basic Practices in Painting

Brushes used by the Flemish were made of hog's hair bristle or of squirrel hair for detailing.

The Flemish painters painted thinly on a bright white ground on wood panel sealed to make it non-absorbent. A drawing was transferred after careful studies had been done. Then a general tint was applied (imprimatura), through which the priming is visible, in pale flesh tone, brown, or even gray. [Rubens painted on a light gray.]

This was to assist the middle tints of the picture and never excluded the still lighter priming. Shadows were painted first as transparent glazes that allowed the light to pass through and reflect off of the white ground. Then lights were built up gradually from there. In this thin, transparent method of painting, grounds of Verdigris and Umber are discouraged because they kill the colors that are applied over them, the Flemish tending always towards warm shadows.

Rubens stated, "Be careful not to let white insinuate itself into (your shadows); it is the poison of a picture except in the lights; if white be once allowed to dull the perfect transparency and golden warmth of your shadows, your colouring will no longer be glowing, but heavy and gray."

Such was the practice of Tintoretto, and of Titian who, after painting his grisaille in lead white and carbon black, layered it with red and yellow ochre and cinnabar (vermilion) plus lead white in the lights. (see Reynolds observations below) And even Rubens used white to create reflected lights, so that his instructions must be understood within the particular method in which they were employed.

Lovis Corinth recommends to the reader

  1. The distribution of space (what is needed is to adapt the theme to the space available on the canvas);
  2. The identification of sources of light and of the forms of the shadows (through the method “clignez les yeux”);
  3. The definition of the proportions (comparing the whole with individual parts, and those parts between each other);
  4. The control of the relative position of each relevant point through vertical and horizontal parallel lines.


corinth realLovis Corinth, "Nude Girl (a study), oil on canvas, 30 x 25.3 in, 1886


Copy of Corinth

Copy Corinth, weath under painting in ocker, payens grey and napels yellow, background with lamp black, madder lake.


crCopy Corinth , on grey undertone with lamp black and ocker and napels yellow and mader lake


copy corinth 
copy corinth, wet under paint in ocker, napels yellow lamp black and siena, more warm painting then madder lake


nude waicopy corinth


breitherCopy Breithner with weth under painting ocker and payens grey and napels yellow and sienna