Art Chowder September | October 2021 Issue No. 35 Issue 35 - Page 70

became the dominant medium throughout the Renaissance and is occasionally employed today .
The techniques of fresco ( from the Italian for “ fresh ”) painting in the Renaissance were well recorded by contemporaries and probably differ little from those in the ancient world . The artist had to work in a rapid and piecemeal manner , and since he ( there were no women fresco painters in the Renaissance ) usually worked from a scaffold that was dismantled from the top down , he tended to compose in horizontal strips .
The first step was to trowel on a layer of plaster to cover a giornata , or the amount of square footage the artist could expect to complete in one day . It was essential that the plaster remain wet while the artist worked , so the pigment would be trapped in it . It could never flake off or fade with time . It was immortal . But that meant that the artist had to work briskly and confidently , because he had only one chance to get it right . As Frederick Hartt writes , “ A fresco may appear detailed and exact when viewed from the floor , but seen close , it reveals at once that it was executed at considerable speed .” To obtain his pigments , the Renaissance artist bought powders from the apothecary , then mixed them with a binder : egg yolk for tempera , linseed oil for oil painting , gum arabic for watercolor . A fresco painter needed only water . A staff of young apprentices prepared the colored solutions for the artist . Not all the pigments used in other media were suitable for fresco . White lead , for example , reacted disastrously to the plaster , turning black . Cimabue ’ s once-great “ Crucifixion ” in
Michelangelo , “ Crucifixion of St . Peter ” 1550