Aerial Perspective

Last time we looked at linear perspective as an important way painters and sculptors can create a believable sense of space in a picture or carving. Linear perspective uses a mathematical system of lines to set up a realistic window onto the world. The key observation for this system (and you’ll no doubt remember drawing a tree-lined road or train tracks in art class) is that lines that are actually parallel appear to converge on a central vanishing point.

Once “invented” and absorbed, artists became sophisticated in their use of this system. Here’s the Dutch Golden Age genre painter Pieter de Hooch punching hole after hole into the surface of his canvas with a rigorously worked-out series of receding interior spaces. The lines on the floor and the blast of light on the distant canal make us take note of the spatial illusion.

There are other ways though of creating a sense of depth in a painting and it’s one of those we’ll look at today. Aerial perspective (sometimes called atmospheric perspective) uses colour to create a sense of space. It mimics the natural way atmosphere affects the human eye, so that things in the distance appear paler, bluer and fuzzier than things in the foreground. Here’s a classic bit of aerial perspective from the Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich:

As is clear here aerial perspective comes into its own in landscapes. These hills and mountains of Riesengebirge become bluer in the middle distance and paler in the background. Outlines become less precise and details are lost in the distance.

The effects of atmosphere on the human eye had been observed by fresco painters of the Roman period and aerial perspective was used in paintings from the Netherlands in the 15th century. Explanations of its effects were written by polymaths such as Leon Battista Alberti (1404-72) and Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). Here is the big man Leo himself putting the technique to delicious use his Virgin and Child with St. Anne c. 1508:

Leonardo builds a beautiful blue imaginary landscape way beyond his figures. The tones get paler as they recede. See too how the background colours are “cool” whilst those in the foreground are “warm”. Colours are sometimes described (and often used by painters) in terms of temperature. Warm are those in the red-orange-yellow range. Cool are those on the opposite side of the colour wheel: we’re talking the green-blue-violet zone.

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It’s the chilled blues in the background in contrast to the orange-ochre stones in the foreground of the Leonardo that build the room into which his forms and figures can fit. In this watercolour from 1842 English Romanticist painter Turner also exploits the push and pull of warm and cool colours. In this painting (called Lake Constance), the warm colours seem to advance towards the viewer, while the hazy blues recede towards the horizon.

Constance 1842 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 York Museums Trust (York Art Gallery) http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/TW0863

As well as using colour to convince us of recession, Leonardo, Turner et al do the blurring to trick our eye into believing that things are far away. The edges of far-off rocks are smudged and softened and details disappear into thin air. This fudging of fine detail is something we see Ma Yuan of the Song Dynasty (960-1279) do in Willows and Distant Mountains. This painter can’t use colour to suggest recession so it’s all about making the foreground really crisp and dark and the craggy outline in the background faint and vaporous.

I’ll sign off with something that rejects aerial perspective to pinpoint how significant this subtle spatial technique is. In Toward Evening German expressionist Gabriele Münter (1877-1962) creates areas of intense colour. From the red road in the foreground to the blue mountain in the background there is no lightening, no let up. She’d been looking at colour-rich glass painting when she made this and wasn’t after a sense of depth through colour. Though her mountain is blue it isn’t pale or blurred so the end effect is more flat pattern than far-off panorama.

Linear Perspective

Since the Renaissance most Western painters have wanted to make it look as if the picture they are painting on a flat surface is three dimensional: has depth as well as breadth, just like the real world. There are many ways to create this illusion and this week we’re looking at one such visual device. In art what we call linear perspective uses – as the name suggests – line to create an effect of depth or distance.

The key observation for the system of linear perspective is that parallel lines appear to meet in the far distance. Take Avenue at Middelharnis (1689) by the Dutch Golden Age painter Meindert Hobbema: here the sides of the avenue appear to come together in the distance. And eventually they seem to join up.

Like Hobbema, English landscape painter David Cox uses linear perspective in his watercolour Poplar Avenue (c. 1820). We know that the road sides do not actually meet but we interpret their converging in the painting as a sign of distance. By inserting a small figure on horseback Cox draws our eye into the painting and leads us down the road into the distance.

It is believed that it was the Florentine architect Filippo Brunelleschi who experimented with and formalised the system of linear perspective in around 1420. As we’ve seen, linear perspective uses real or suggested lines (often called orthogonals) converging on the horizon line or at eye level. The place where the orthogonals meet is called the vanishing point. When linear perspective was “discovered” Florentine artists became obsessed with it, especially after detailed instructions were published in a painting manual written by fellow Florentine Leon Battista Alberti in 1435.

This study of a vase proves just how fixated Florentine Paolo Uccello (c. 1396-1475) became on the the problems of perspective. Vasari (the 16th century biographer of artists) tells us how Paolo would “stand the whole night through beside his writing desk seeking new terms for the expression of his rules of perspective.” When his missus asked him to come to bed Paolo would often decline saying he had plans with “my sweet mistress perspective.”

In this painting of a scene from the battle of San Romano (waged between Florence and Siena in 1432) the jolly trappings of the horses and rich colour scheme do not deter the eye from the obsessive way Uccello has laid broken lances and bits of armour on the battleground along the orthogonal lines.

Linear perspective was revolutionary because it created an illusion of space from a single, fixed viewpoint (which fed nicely into the renewed focus on the individual that formed a key part of Renaissance thinking). The Renaissance soon came up with the comparison of a painting to a window, pointing to the painter’s ability to create a perfect illusion (with the help of perspective) of an outside reality, as if the picture surface were a pane of glass.

Pieter de Hooch (1629-84) creates a “window onto the world” in the complex interior of “The Bedroom.” Through a series of opening doors illuminated by a double light-source, he stresses his skill in building a convincing illusionistic interior space as the viewer is admitted into a private domestic moment.

The American artist Andrew Wyeth (1917–2009) had a well-known fascination with the window motif: 300 or more works on this theme alone! His window paintings seem to insist on the idea of the canvas as a window onto the world. Wyeth’s repeated, painstakingly realistic renderings are reminiscent of Uccello’s dedication to his “sweet mistress perspective”.

A Wyeth window rarely strays from the path of linear correctness (if “Love in the Afternoon” from 1992 above suggests something a little illicit then that has nothing to do with the by-the-book perspectival handling).

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In this painting of a window looking out onto a harbour Fauve painter Henri Matisse did something very interesting with the Renaissance “window”. Open Window, Collioure (1905) is an invitation to look into the distance BUT any sense of recession is undermined. There are no “correct” orthogonals, much less a discernible vanishing point. Rather than looking into the distance, our eye remains trapped on the surface of the canvas by the bright colours and decorative brushstrokes. “The boat which is going past exists in the same space as the familiar objects around me… and the wall with the window do not create two different worlds” said Matisse.

Linear perspective gave artists the formula for creating incredibly convincing illusions of space. It also gave Matisse and other avant-garde artists something to rebel against. And – if Vasari is to be believed – perspective even gave Paolo Uccello some nights of serious passion.

 

Terracotta Sculpture

This week we’re looking at terracotta as a medium for art. The word means “baked earth” in Italian because terracotta is clay that’s been exposed to heat. Our first stop-off is Etruria.

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Etruscan art is that produced by the people of Etruria (modern day Tuscany) from the 8th to the 2nd centuries BCE. Before the Romans came and conquered all, Italy was dominated by the Etruscans. Their trading links brought them into contact with many cultures but their art was mainly influenced by the Greeks. The Etruscans were all about the preservation of the body and the afterlife and thank goodness they were because their tombs are the only way we know anything about their culture.

These are two versions of an Etruscan sarcophagus (one is in Paris, the other Rome) showing a married couple. They were found in a necropolis (cemetery) in Cerveteri, a town north of Rome with hundreds of tombs.

The couple reclines as if at a banquet, quite life-like, moving into our space, extending their arms, embracing, intimate. The sarcophagus tells us about Etruscan women actively participating in public life – attending banquets, riding in carriages and engaging in public events. Here she is possibly anointing his hand with perfume in a traditional funeral ritual.

This is a massive piece of terracotta. I can only imagine it’s not easy to model clay figures in nearly life-size. When these forms had been shaped and were beginning to dry (called the “leather hard” stage) they’d have been smoothed before being fired in four pieces. The fired surface is excellently glib for the application of paint.

Over in Renaissance Florence terracotta pieces rumbled easily off Luca della Robbia’s (1400-82) art assembly line. An important figure in the early Renaissance, della Robbia created works in the “sweet style” and used classical Greek and Roman models. His big technical innovation was the use of glazed terracotta for sculptures.

Roundels of gently expressive, half-length Madonna groups in coloured glazed terracotta on a blue background were the bread and butter of Luca’s workshop. Adding colour made statuary much more visible in the dim lighting of a church and bright and permanent colours also made the terracottas suitable for use on the outside of buildings. Della Robbia’s family carried on his factory well into the 16th century.

Terracotta was used by Niccolò dell’Arca (c. 1435 – 1494) to depict the Lamentation over the Dead Christ for a church in Bologna (1464 or c. 1485). Northern Italy was responsive to influences from the religious currents of northern Europe and this tableaux vivant gives rise and swell to incredible emotion.

The 7 figure group is painted and must have made a startling impact inside the church. Around Christ are a stick-thin John the Evangelist, a startled donor and the holy women. The Virgin Mary is uttering an anguished shriek with bowed head while one woman hurls herself forward, screaming in despair and another recoils in terror.

Terracotta sculpture allows for experimentation: since it is a somewhat slow-drying material the artist can fiddle around with forms and effects. The figure on the right looks like she’s standing in front of a turbo fan: the artist has transformed heavy earth into wind-whipped garments. Breathtaking. The detail on the face of the Evangelist – the way his mouth is pulled into a nearly-sob – makes his pain so palpable.

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The British artist Antony Gormley brought terracotta bang up to date with his unforgettable work Field from 1991 (it’s been re-installed at various locations since). It’s made up of about 35,000 (yes) tiny terracotta figures each between 8 and 26 cm high, installed on the floor of a room facing the viewer. The figures were sculpted in Mexico by 60 members of a family of brick-makers, under the supervision of the artist. I just love this dark red horde of funny little figures casually encroaching and carpeting the space. They’re a little bit cute and crafty, a little bit mad and menacing.

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In 2012 British/Japanese artist Simon Fujiwara also tapped into the idea of a terracotta army with his work Rebekkah, one hundred, terra-cotta dyed, life sized, cast plaster female figures. The installation was inspired by a 16 year old girl from Hackney, who was one of the protagonists of the 2011 London Riots. Fujiwara asked Rebekkah to travel to China to take part in a social experiment; her access to social media was cut and she visited factories making things we wanted but took for granted (fashion, tech, etc.) The trip ended with a visit to the Terracotta Army (the vast collection of sculptures depicting the armies of the first Emperor of China, designed to protect him in the afterlife and dating from 210–209 BCE). Rebekkah then had casts made of her body to be assembled into modern day versions of the warriors. Up to 100 figures were created, making Rebekkah a representative of a new breed of British-born warrior and a soldier for social change.

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Bronze Sculpture

We’re looking at bronze as a material for sculpture this week. Bronze has been considered prestigious since ancient times and the techniques for casting it have hardly changed. We’re starting with these one-time warriors (they would have had weapons). These two life-size bearded nude bronzes were brought up from the sea off the Riace marina in southern Italy in 1972.

These are rare survivors since metals were costly and often melted down and recycled in antiquity (most Greek bronzes are known only in later Roman copies in marble). The Warriors are dated c. 450 BCE, a period marked by an increased interest in the use of bronze. The impact of these figures is indeed amped up by the bronze: the dark gleaming surface is striking and starts to look like oiled skin in the mediterranean sun. Add to this the intense facials: one of the men still has inlaid eyes and red copper lips revealing silver teeth.

These hollow figures were cast using the lost wax method, a complex process that will have us marvelling at bronze sculpture all the more. Most sculptures made of bronze are created using this technique.

The sculptor begins by building up a model in clay (a): this part of process encourages trying things out in a way that would have been impossible for an artist working in marble. The model is then coated in a thin film of wax (b). The outer surface of this wax film shows what the finished bronze will look like. Next the sculptor encases the wax-covered model in a clay mould (c). This mould is both flexible and strong and is held in place by metal rods that run through to the clay model at the core the sculpture. Now the wax is melted out, leaving a gap between the clay model and the outer mould (d) before molten bronze is poured in to fill the space first occupied by the wax (e). Once the bronze has cooled and solidified the mould is removed and the sculpture finished off.

This large-scale bronze beauty was found in the sea off the cape of Artemision. Dated c. 460 BCE this god in the midst of vigorous action (he probably once held a weapon in his right hand) tells us about one of the key advantages of bronze: it’s tensile strength. Whereas marble sculptors had to be cautious about the poses they used and careful not to cut limbs too far free from the body for fear that they would break off, bronze sculptors could explore a far freer arrangement of arms and legs due to the ability of bronze to support its own weight. This Poseidon/ Zeus figure has the longest left arm of anyone I know, and it is reaching out completely unrestricted into space thanks to bronze.

The tensile strength of bronze is exploited in this portrait of the emperor Trebonianus Gallus (251-251 AD): the pose, with arms extended away from the body, presents the ruler in a dynamic way and projects the personality with which he wished to be perceived.

The methods used for casting bronze sculpture were carefully revived during the Renaissance in Europe. The bronze David by Donatello (c. 1386-1466) was probably commissioned by Cosimo de’ Medici between 1420 and 1460. It was the first life-size nude cast since antiquity. Unusually, Donatello chose to present the youthful David: his nakedness accents his vulnerability and the smooth finish of the surface catches the light and stresses the sensual skin-like nature of the material.

The severed head of Goliath lies underfoot. This part of the sculpture is full of fine detail that Donatello would have created with the help of a chisel.

A very different type of bronze body was cast by the Italian Futurist Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916).

This work – called Unique Forms of Continuity in Space – explores the human figure in motion, boldly striding forwards. The Futurists spurned the traditions of art history and were inspired by technology and mechanical dynamism: this is possibly the most successful realisation of their aesthetic in any medium. The figure explodes into the surrounding space, an effect greatly enhanced by the rigid yet fluid-looking lines and forms and the light-catching surface of the material.

While Boccioni’s treatment of bronze disguises the processes of casting to create an effect of sleek dynamism, the British artist Elizabeth Frink (1930-1993) preferred to reveal her steps and the character of the material in a work like Harbinger Bird (1961). Frink started with a light chickenwire construction before adding wet plaster in layers. Once modelled she carved the form to roughen the surface. Even after the sculpture had been cast in bronze she would attack it with chisels, rasps and mallets to distress it.

This creepy creeping “bird” of disturbed and disturbing surface effect bears the scars of the artist’s hand. The staggering skinny legs are a testament to the tensile strength of the material (its totally top heavy, with that wedge block on top) and the darkness of colour only adds to the menace. The bronze-ness of bronze is brought to life in this bird.

Wood Sculpture

It’s wood week. Like marble, wood is carved. It’s softer though (so easier to work) and doesn’t survive as well since it can decay, be eaten by bugs or burned. As with all materials, wood has natural inherent properties that affect the way an artist works and how the work turns out.

Wood can achieve some amazing effects. For example, soft woods (such as lime) can take on really fine detail. See what I mean in this work by Tilman Riemenschneider, a German late gothic sculptor famed for his work in wood.

This Last Supper scene is part of his Altar of the Holy Blood (1501). The level of detail here is mind-blowing, from the drapery folds to the fingernails.

Another thing wood does well is be lightweight. This is by the Spanish Baroque sculptor Gregorio Fernández (1576-1636) who made religious subjects in wood. His most expressive sculptures such this Pietà from 1617 were designed to be carried in Holy Week processions. Since wood is light it is suitable for sculpture intended to be carried.

This is also by Fernández. Here wood is made to look and feel flesh-like and the paint only adds to the effect. Whereas these days sculptors tend to emphasise the natural colour and grain of wood, in earlier centuries it was common to paint carved wood sculptures. In the case of the Dead Christ the sculpture was coated in glue and white ground before the painter got to work.

He’s got glass eyes, ivory teeth and is presented on an almost stage-like platform. It’s dramatic and theatrical. Imagine approaching this figure to pray over, touch, kiss: the wood would have made him warmer to the touch than marble ever could thus adding to the life-likeness. Or rather dead-likeness.

Wood also conjures up connections to primitive art. The great majority of African sculpture and that of Oceania and other regions is done in wood.

Die Brücke (The Bridge) was a group of German expressionist artists formed in Dresden in 1905. As well as Cézanne, Gauguin and van Gogh Die Brücke was fascinated by so-called “primitive” art from Africa and Oceania. This nude by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner is a western expressionist take on a primitive wood carving.

This figure with a raised arm from the early 1980s by the German Neo-Expressionist Georg Baselitz (b. 1938) also conjures up connections to the primitive. The direct carving of the figure and the primary colours can look tribal. What this figure also does is show us the wood-ness of wood, stressing the vertical of the original tree and its roughness in the surface texture.

In much of his wood work Baselitz uses rough techniques to provoke emotions in the viewer. In this Model for a Sculpture (1980) he’s used axes and a chainsaw for a raw uncompromising look. The wood surface records all the cuts and slashes across the torso that seems to give the Nazi salute while rising from a block of wood.

Baselitz excels at working wood into expressive figures but he certainly isn’t the first to have done so. The Florentine sculptor Donatello (c. 1386-1466) had a real feel for the suggestive power of wood, especially later in his career. His Mary Magdalen (c. 1455) is shocking: her emaciated body and hollow cheeks speak of faith and torment. The sense of her physical decay is all the more meaningful since the wood from which she is carved is itself vulnerable to decay.

Mary Magdalen gets to the heart of why wood sculptures are special. The British sculptor David Nash (who’s worked with wood carving and live trees) puts it well:

“If someone asked what material I was using when I was first making wood sculptures, I would say ‘I am working with wood.’ This was usually just planks and beams from demolition sites. When I no longer had access to that the only available wood was fallen trees. Then I realised I was working not just with wood, but with where the wood came from – the tree.”

For his Ash Dome (pictured above) Nash planted ash saplings in a circle and trained the trunks over a period of years to grow inwards so that the foliage joins together to form a dome. The dome has an architectural feel to it and the trunks seem to dance in formation. The Ash Dome is such a beautiful patient example of the push and pull of working with wood. Even when it’s cut and then carved wood retains that sense of one-time life, breath, growth and spirit.

Marble Sculpture

In the last few weeks we’ve been looking at painting processes and techniques so I reckon it’s time to get stuck into sculpture. Sculpture can be a taking-away process (subtractive) if using hard materials such as stone or wood or a building up process (additive) if using soft materials such as clay or wax. Marble is one of the traditional materials of sculpture in the Western canon I thought we’d start here.

Marble is rock that forms when limestone has re-crystallised. The tools used to carve it are the same now as always. These are the steps:

1. The sculptor roughs out the block with a hammer and pick. The weight of the blow is brought down on one point so bits of unwanted bulk burst away.

Michelangelo’s Awakening Slave is unfinished (it was intended for the tomb of Pope Julius II) which is brilliant for us because it shows the steps of carving. The rough areas around the torso show the pocked pick marks.

2. Next a tooth or claw chisel (shaped like a small comb) is used to model form and remove more stone. The areas of the Awakening Slave that look like they’ve had a fork dragged over them (the raised left arm, the beard, a little on the chest) have all been shaped by a claw chisel. Contours of a form are refined with strokes of a series of increasingly fine chisels.

3. A rasp (a row of little teeth cut into a piece of metal) is rubbed over the marble to emphasise shapes and eradicate chisel marks.

4. Fine chisels are used for detail.

5. A manual drill can be used to create holes for nostrils, pupils, etc. This is Bernini’s nymph Daphne screaming as she’s chased by Apollo. Hers is one of the most deeply-hollowed mouths in sculpture.

6. The final piece can be sanded to a matt or shined smooth finish using sandpaper or marble dust from the workshop floor. Check the extreme gleam on Michelangelo’s Pieta.

When looking at a marble sculpture it’s interesting to think about how the sculptor has made the most of the material and/ or been limited by it. A big bonus point is durability. Also, the white colour suggests purity and gives off a feel of the ideal.

In Three Forms (1935) Barbara Hepworth eradicates colour and focuses us on relationships in space, in size, in texture and weight.

Marble has a classical connotation and traditional association. Antonio Canova (1757-1822) was a leading light of Neoclassicism, a style influenced by archeological discoveries in Pompeii. He worked in mainly marble and modelled his style on classical examples. Here Canova carves Napoleon’s sister Paolina Borghese as a classical Venus.

Ironically Canova (and Renaissance artists) got it wrong: marble sculptures of ancient Greece and Rome were most likely painted with bright colours. Classical sculptures only come to us white because the paint has flaked off over time.

One of the best bits about working with marble is the fact that the surface responds to light. The surface of this 1st century BCE sculpture called Laocoön ripples into light and dips into shade pumping up the volume on the drama and intensity.

On the downside… Sometimes a marble sculpture can seem ‘contained’ by the restrictions of the original block. Take this Anavysos Kouros (c. 530 BCE) from the Greek Archaic period. This nude male was a warrior’s grave marker. His rigid stance (with arms that don’t leave his side) still suggests the shape of the block from which he was carved.

Another issue is marble’s limited tensile strength. It doesn’t support its own weight well. Dear Venus de Milo (c. 100 BCE) suffered.

Extended gestures must be limited and are vulnerable. In the case of the Rape of a Sabine (c.1582) by Flemish-born Mannerist sculptor Giambologna, the expressive spiral of figures with outstretched limbs works only because the group has its over the centre of gravity.

Sculpting is dirty, hard and physical work. Is it any wonder Michelangelo was built like a be-muscled bull (check out Raphael’s portrait of him in the School of Athens):

But despite the graft, the supreme masters of marble make it look easy. Like the High Baroque master Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) who somehow managed to turn cold hard stone into palpable, squash-able flesh.

Acrylic Painting

Last week we looked at oil and considered the incredible freedom it gave artists to create staggering effects with paint. After centuries of oil dominating painting, acrylics came in from the 1940s and 50s. Acrylics changed the face of painting, altering how artists worked and how their works came to look.

Made from pigment, acrylic polymer emulsion and chemicals that control texture, stability and durability, acrylics dry within hours. They can be thinned with water and used like watercolour or applied thickly like oils. Colours are available with different intensities and finishes: matt or metallic as well as opaque or transparent.

As with other mediums, acrylic paint brings its own possibilities. One of its key advantages is versatility. For instance, like oil, acrylic can be used thickly. Here British painter John Hoyland (1934-2011) applies acrylic so liberally that its stands out in relief from the surface of the painting. Impasto (heavy application) is typical of Hoyland and possible with fast-drying acrylic.

Acrylic can also go the other way and be thinned and used more as a wash. In this minimalist painting U.S. artist Agnes Martin (1912-2004) covers a large square canvas with a white acrylic ground. Over the top she’s drawn a fine grid of graphite and red pencil lines.

In The Holy Virgin Mary (1996) English painter Chris Ofili (b.1968) exploits the stickiness of acrylic, which can be applied to all kinds of surfaces. This controversial work is a multi-layered mishmash of imported materials (paper, oil paint, glitter, elephant dung) all glued and sealed tight together by acrylic.

In this painting (called 727-727) Japanese artist Takashi Murakami (b. 1962) showcases the different effects he can achieve with acrylic paint. Here the artist’s signature cartoon-like creature MR. DOB (inspired by animated film and comic book characters) is carried on a curl-crested wave that suggests the well-known woodblock prints of the Japanese artist Hokusai (1760–1849).

So acrylic can be used to delineate fine detail. It can also be used to create a more blotched and faded effect: in the background multiple layers of paint have been built up and then scraped away to create an abstract look.

In the 1960s David Hockney (b.1937) moved to Los Angeles and made a switch from oil paint to acrylic. His paintings of the carefree southern Californian existence of green gardens, blue pools and beautiful boys have a flat and graphic feel to them. A Bigger Splash (1967) is a good example.

Here Hockney paints the pool of a Modernist Californian home. The sense of stillness is reinforced by strong horizontals and verticals in the composition. Hockney created the straight-edged shapes by masking-taping the canvas and applying the acrylic paint with rollers. The surprise of the splash contained in the tight arrangement shows Hockney’s graphic leaning. The quick drying time of acrylic makes blending difficult in comparison to oil. In this sense Hockney uses the medium in its purest from, creating an almost surface-pattern effect. Adding to this is the fact that acrylic is flat in terms of its light absorption: it doesn’t glow like oil.

In this famous work the Spanish painter Velázquez renders the effect of form in terms of light and shade (chiaroscuro in Italian). One of acrylic paint’s possible limitations is that it does not allow for easy modelling in light and shade because it dries so fast.

This is another version of Las Meninas (1970) made by an artistic collaboration called Equipo Crónica. This group reconfigures and revisualises works from the art historical canon for a modern audience. What’s interesting for us is that where Velázquez’s oil paint makes possible a range of tones from very dark to very light, acrylic can’t create that effect. So the modern-day version has passages of unblended colour creating form. As I suggested at the start, acrylics literally changed the face of painting.