Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Book for the Painter: Techniques of the Artists of the American West

I'm always looking for information on how the artists I respect and admire made their paintings.   Books on such a specialized topic are hard to find and not that common to start with.  So, imagine my surprise when I found that my local library has one.  For art books, most libraries either have basic "how to paint" books or coffee table books that present the complete ouevre of Rembrandt, Van Gogh or some other blue-chip artist.  It's rare to find something like Techniques of the Artists of the American West.

The book takes one painting by each of the major Western painters and analyzes it regarding materials and painting process.  Featured are the ones you'd expect like Oscar Berninghaus, Albert  Bierstadt, George Catlin and Maynard Dixon but also a few surprises such as N.C. Wyeth, who made a single trip west and painted western illustrations for only a year.   The book has all kinds of interesting observations along with x-rays of canvases, photomicrographs of paint layers and the like.  I didn't know, for example, that Frank Tenney Johnson, who is well-known for his nocturnes, achieved their unique look by starting off each canvas with an imprimatura of viridian and Prussian blue.

Here are some photos of the book.   This hardcover book is available used on Amazon.  (Book by Peggy and Harold Samuels, The Wellfleet Press, 1990.)

I'm curious to know if any of my readers have come across any similar books?

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