Whistler’s Oil Painting Technique

Whistler’s Oil Painting Technique

Whistler’s Oil Painting Technique

Whistler’s Oil Painting Technique

Whistler’s approach to portraiture in his late maturity was described by one of his sitters, Arthur J. Eddy, who posed for the artist in 1894:

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“He worked with great rapidity and long hours, but he used his colours thin and covered the canvas with innumerable coats of paint. The colours increased in depth and intensity as the work progressed.

At first the entire figure was painted in greyish-brown tones, with very little flesh colour, the whole blending perfectly with the greyish-brown of the prepared canvas; then the entire background would be intensified a little; then the figure made a little stronger; then the background, and so on from day to day and week to week, and often from month to month….

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And so the portrait would really grow, really develop as an entirety, very much as a negative under the action of the chemicals comes out gradually—light, shadows, and all from the very first faint indications to their full values. It was as if the portrait were hidden within the canvas and the master by passing his wands day after day over the surface evoked the image.”

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This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Maxine Dodd says:

    Wonderful to discover Whistler’s working method. It still holds true for artists today, including me! I work so slowly in oils. It takes time to build up to the effect desired. Great post thank you!

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