An introduction by the way of Van Eyck

Oil painting has been with us in various forms since the eighth century, however it didn’t attain widespread use until the early fifteenth century when innovative Flemish painters such as Hubert and Jan Van Eyck (1385-1441) developed a layered method of painting known today as the Flemish Technique.

The Flemish technique evolved from the earlier discipline of egg tempera in an effort to overcome the limitations inherent in an ‘egg’ based medium. Painters using the Flemish technique painted on a white ground, which consisted of layers of gesso painted onto a rigid wooden panel. The reason for the white ground was that the subsequent thin layers of paint would allow the ground to show through, causing the paintings to glow as if lit from behind. The Flemish technique uses a strict methodology for the creation of successful paintings, making corrections to the drawing difficult during the later painting process so this technique benefits from a precise line drawing as a framework onto which the later painting can be constructed.

First various studies and drawings would be made until a final drawing or ‘cartoon’ was created. This drawing would then be transferred to the white ground by a method called pricking and pouncing. Pricking created pin holes which followed the drawing exactly. The drawing was then offered up to the ground and whilst being held in position ‘pounced’. Pouncing consisted of firmly tapping at the drawing with a small cloth bag filled with charcoal dust. The dust passed through the pricked holes and when the drawing was removed a dotted outline would be left on the white ground.

Next the artist would quite literally join the dots, using ink, egg tempera, [...]