What is the difference between Bistre, Grisaille and Verdaccio

What is under painting:

Under painting is an initial layer of paint applied to a ground, which serves as a base for subsequent layers of paint. 

Under paintings are often monochromatic and help to define colour values for later painting. There are several different types of under painting, such as Bistre,  Verdaccio and Grisaille.

Monochromatic color schemes are derived from a single color mixed with black and white. The dark and light variations is called  shades, tones and tints.

  1. Tints are achieved by adding white
  2. Shades and tones are achieved by adding black.

Example of monochromatic color

 

Monochromatic-Colors

There are 3 types of underpainting: Bistre + Grisaille and Verdacchio


There are so many confusing colour mixes quoted on these techniques, that I have decided to simplify it for my students


Underpainting gets its name because it is painting that is intended to be painted over in a system of working in layers using glazes or very thin layers of color.


There is a popular misconception that under painting should be monochromatic, perhaps in gray-scales.  This technique was pioneered by Titian in the High Renaissance. The colors of the under painting will influence the glazes or over painting, without the danger of the colors physically blending and becoming muddy. If under painting is done properly, it facilitates over painting. If it seems that if one has to fight to obscure the under painting, it is a sign that it was not done properly.

Under painting makes it far easier to model with a few neutral tones than with more complex color mixtures. It cannot be ascertained if Vermeer defined his under painting as accurately as those of Leonardo but laboratory evidence indicates that they were more sketchy. Vermeer generally used black and brown in his under painting. (Bistre) Rembrandt and Rubens, in particular, are know to have used under painting very effectively. It is believed that artists once kept a number of under paintings in their studio waiting for clients’ interest before completing the painting with full color and detail.


 

There are 3 types of underpainting: Bistre + Grisaille and Verdacchio


 

There are so many confusing colour mixes quoted on these techniques, that I have decided to simplify it for my students

Underpainting gets its name because it is painting that is intended to be painted over in a system of working in layers using glazes or very thin layers of color.

 There is a popular misconception that under painting should be monochromatic, perhaps in gray-scales.  This technique was pioneered by Titian in the High Renaissance. The colors of the under painting will influence the glazes or over painting, without the danger of the colors physically blending and becoming muddy. If under painting is done properly, it facilitates over painting. If it seems that if one has to fight to obscure the under painting, it is a sign that it was not done properly. Under painting makes it far easier to model with a few neutral tones than with more complex color mixtures. It cannot be ascertained if Vermeer defined his under painting as accurately as those of Leonardo but laboratory evidence indicates that they were more sketchy. Vermeer generally used black and brown in his under painting. (Bistre) Rembrandt and Rubens, in particular, are know to have used under painting very effectively. It is believed that artists once kept a number of under paintings in their studio waiting for clients’ interest before completing the painting with full color and detail.


 

 

 

 

Bistre

 

Definition: A very dark shade of grayish black (the version shown on the immediate right); or a shade of brown made from soot, or the name for a color resembling the brownish pigment. Bistre’s appearance is generally of a dark grayish brown, with a yellowish cast.. The resulting ink color depends on the type of wood burnt to make the soot. Authentic Bistre is made from Beechwood and gives a transparent, dark brown with yellow undertones.       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grisaille

Definition: Grisaille, from the French word ‘gris’ for gray, is a monochrome painting or drawing, usually in gray but entirely in monochrome or near-monochrome, usually in shades of grey, sometimes in sepia tones. 
Traditionally, grisaille drawing and painting from plaster casts were done as the basis of classical art training, as the technique allowed the artist to concentrate on accurate rendering of form, without the distraction of color.Many Grisailles in fact include a slightly wider colour range, like the Andrea del Sarto fresco illustrated. Paintings executed in brown are sometimes referred to by the more specific term Brunaille, and paintings executed in green are sometimes called Verdaille.Usually beginning with a dark surface and using white paint to build highlights and model the subject, the painter begins with thin paint as the foundation of the work. Once dry, the painting is then layered with glazes of color, to create a rich and luminous final surface. 

 

Grisaille of a Seated Female by Hyeseung Marriage-Song, 24 x 20, oil on linen, 2008.  
Grisaille of a Seated Female by Hyeseung Marriage-Song,
24 x 20, oil on linen, 2008.
 

 

  The Annunciation by Jan van Eyck, 20 x 12, oil on panel, 1439.
  The Annunciation by Jan van Eyck,
20 x 12, oil on panel, 1439.
   

In and of itself, Grisaille can be used as a stepping stone toward a finished oil painting after adding glazes. Grisaille painting is a gateway painting method. It has been around for centuries, was an essential exercise for the Old Masters, and still has much to teach us today.

 

Verdacchio

Reading the Cennino Cennini Craftsman’s Handbook, Cennini, explained how to paint a youthful face gives us the exact manner of how this color was mixed by Giotto:

And let us suppose that in a day you have just one head to do, a youthful saint’s, like Our Most Holy Lady’s. When you have got the mortar of your plaster all smoothed down, take a little dish, a glazed one, for all your dishes should be glazed and tapered like a goblet of drinking glass, and they should have a good heavy base at the foot, to keep them steady so as not to spill the colors; take as much as a bean of well-ground ocher, the dark kind, for there are two kinds of ocher, light and dark: and if you have none of the dark, take some of the light. Put it into your little dish; take a little black, the size of a lentil; mix it with this ocher; take a little lime white, as much as a third of a bean; take as much light cinabrese as the tip of a penknife will hold; mix it up with the aforesaid colors all together in order, and get this color dripping wet with clear water, without any tempera. Make a fine pointed brush out of flexible, thin bristles, to fit into the quill of a goose feather; and with this brush indicate the face which you wish to do, remembering to divide the face into three parts, that is, the forehead, the nose, and the chin counting the mouth. And with your brush almost dry, gradually apply this color, known in Florence as Verdaccio, and in Siena, as Bazzeo.

So the color was composed of yellow ocher, a bit of black, white and a hint of red (cinabrese). As you can see the recipe includes red (the complementary of green) in order to reduce the mixture intensity.In the procedure to achieve the youthful face of the under painting, however Cennini also uses the earth green and white, and explains how to use them to make a good under painting:

When you have got the shape of the face drawn in, and if it seems not to have come out the way you want it, in its proportions or in any other respect, you can undo it and repair it by rubbing over the plaster with the big bristle brush dipped in water. Then take a little terre-verte in another dish, well tinned out; and with a bristle brush, half squeezed out between the thumb and forefinger of your left hand, start shading under the chin, and mostly on the side where the face is to be darkest; and go on by shaping up the under side of the mouth; and the sides of the mouth; under the nose, and on the side under the eyebrows, especially in toward the nose; a little in the end of the eye toward the ear; and in this way you pick out the whole of the face and the hands, wherever flesh color is to come. Then take a pointed minever brush, and crisp up neatly all the outlines, nose, eyes, lips, and ears, with this verdaccio. There are some masters who, at this point, when the face is in this stage, take a little lime white, thinned with water; and very systematically pick out the prominences and reliefs of the countenance; then they put a little pink on the lips, and some “little apples” on the cheeks. Next they go over it with a little wash of thin flesh color; and it is all painted, except for touching in the reliefs afterward with a little white. It is a good system.

Summary:

Essentially, Bistre was used for drawing and painting using inks or ink colored paints in a mix of black to yellow black.

In modern terms we could use:

  1. Mars black + white

  2. Paynes Grey + white

  3. Burnt Umber + White

  4. Burnt Sienna + White

 

Grisaille was also monochromatic in nature, using black as a basis with slight changes in colour. The greenish tinge (mixing Mars black and Yellow Ochre) was also called Verdaille

In modern terms we could use:

  1. Mars black + white + (yellow Ocher / Burnt umber) 

  2. Paynes Grey + white + (yellow Ocher / Burnt umber)

  3. Burnt Umber + White + (yellow Ocher)

  4. Burnt Sienna + White

     

Verdacchio is essentially the same as Grisaille, except for the adding of Red to the mixture. In modern terms we use 

In modern terms we could use:

  1. Mars black + white + (yellow Ocher + Burnt Sienna) 

  2. Paynes Grey + white + (yellow Ocher + Burnt Sienna) 

  3. Burnt Umber + White + (yellow Ocher + Burnt Sienna) 

  4. Burnt Sienna + White + (Mars black / Paynes Grey) 

 

LifeART School is mentioned in the Cape Town Magazine as one of the BEST Art schools in Cape Town!Come join us and learn from established teacher and artist: Leonie.e.Brown.For more info contact Leonie on: leonie@lifeart.co.za

 

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