St. Charles’ good book

Methods and Materials of Painting of the Great Schools and Masters by Sir Charles Eastlake is the best resource–by far–for information about painting methods and materials. Just like the title states.

The older studio traditions had already faded into the past when Sir Charles published the first volume in 1847, so the book is a research project into lost traditions. It shares this with contemporary books on the subject. Luckily, many of the old traditions still lingered during his time, even if faintly, especially in the paint and varnish making trades.

Eastlake differs from contemporary authors by combining an artist’s sensibility (he was an artist and a member of the Royal Society) with a scholar’s erudition and discipline. And even though he did not have the scientific equipment available to today’s scholars, his judgments are unerringly sound.

In his field, Sir Charles is in a class by himself.

The first volume covers the history of art materials and methods from the earliest times until the 18th century. The second volume was unfinished at his death in 1865. His wife gathered and collated his notes and published them in 1867. Because it was unfinished, its structure is much looser than the first volume. I wish he could have completed his history.

I’ve had my copy for many years, as you can tell from its dog-eared condition.

The Good Book

Many (most?) contemporary writers on these subjects often echo Sir Charles, but I’ve yet to find any to surpass him.

Do yourself a favor and get a copy.

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