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I think sometimes when we're talking about our history we forget that the people were making this are really artists and so it's really important to have a sense of what this material feels like and why people used it what we have up on the screen is sense acharya altarpiece painting by giovanni bellini who's known for this vivid color and very complex or the atmospheres glorious luminosity in his paintings in in fact he used oil paint in a really interesting way oil paint has a kind of translucency and he really used that to advantage but in a way that modern painters don't generally can you explain what that means translucency what is oil Isaac when you paint you don't go and grind your your minerals and add linseed oil to it do you no not at all but that's what they would have done in the time of Bellini how does he get this kind of jewel like color you know that's something that we might have expected to see in northern painting in the 15th century well it comes from northern painting oil paint have different consistencies depending on what varnish you use with them if you use damar resin with them damar resin is just a natural tree sap it looks just like amber it's like a jewel and what you do is dissolve this into turpentine and then mix it with the oil paint in order to make these transparent glass like they're just panes of paint they're almost like stained glass layers of translucent paint so when the light hits this the light is not hitting just the top surface of the canvas and the paint on the canvas it's not sort of an opaque layer what you're saying is that the light is actually entering in almost like prism the light can enter through all of them and go to the white surface before it reflects back so they seem to glow from the inside so that really is like a gentle cuz that's really what happens when you look at a diamond light is entering it's bouncing around inside before it finally comes back out again so I think a lot of people have this idea of oil paint as being a kind of thick and gooey substance but the way that you're talking about it with Renaissance artists applying thin glazes of color and many layers of them it's a very very different idea of I'll paint application it's not thick gooeyness but a rather thin layers of it is that right yeah that makes sense to me and so that means that when Bellini was painting this he must have been painting let's for instance if you look at that brilliant blue of the Virgin Mary's dress it wouldn't have been that blue on his brush it would have been that blue very very thinned out don't know how many layers they applied well I've heard in the dozens really yeah the paint had to dry in between each layer completely right but what the bar does system are speeds up the drying a little bit so how come I want to take a layer to dry normally well it depends on how much you need anyway and how much how much oil there is I mean there are those stories of very heavily built up canvases by Van Gogh you have a skin that is dry but inside there's probably still some viscosity so this is luminosity this brilliance of color is a really important characteristic of oil paint but there's another important characteristic of oil paint which really differentiates it from tempera before it which is that if you're not using the damar that the oil will have this really sort of wonderfully liquid quality and it allows for the paint to come off the brush in a very long stroke and it allows for the paint to be mixed on the canvas as opposed to just on the palette this is Turner's reign steam speed the Great Western Railway so it you think Turner is actually mixing the paints on the canvas or oh that's a tough one I don't I don't know exactly what I think so yeah and I would I would build on what you said about oils this tempera is relatively flat as is acrylic and sort of the best tempera I think of as a lot of Kelly's work where it's very linear and all the colors form form these flat kind of interlaced lines like hatching yeah like hatching yeah the the basic unit of the painting is line but in oils the basic unit is surface or atmosphere it becomes infinitely more complex one color can penetrate another and just by working with two colors you can get an infinite array of colors my position I guess on Turner knowing the rapidity of his pace is that with this painting he yeah he probably let the colors be alive and mix them on top of each other and allow them to penetrate each other and urghhh and sink down beneath one another it's not so much more as if the process of painting exists in this sort of direct confrontation of the artist in the canvas as opposed to something that's much more premeditated much more sort of worked out and more completely preconceived what I'm thinking about is I mean here we have a much more modernist canvas and I'm wondering right how much of a role media played in the development of modernism as an aesthetic in this canvas we have this in the painting that was criticized a perfect exemplar of modernity ripping through what had been a pastoral landscape so what what comes first though there's a kind of individualist part of the kind of romantic sensibility at this birth of modernism but it does fit so perfectly with the medium of oil paint and oil paint fits well in other ways with modernism right it's something that can go on wooden panels or on canvas and we can be bought and sold and moved around and treated as private property and there's so many things about oil paint that allow for this development of modernism anyway it's true even the heroic ISM of paint and that's that's I mean it's something I think it's worth touching on the idea of the brewer this extraordinary sort of expressive brushstroke right I'm thinking about the work of Velazquez there's a kind of heroic ISM in there that I think becomes very much rooted in this notion of the individual and it's kind of virtuosity that one can show off with the brush you know oil paint is the most historical medium it's the it's the medium of modernity and I never found myself able to use what for some reason the biases in my mind from my education considered weaker media my latest thing is to paint with watercolors we have this strange median yeah associations of being feminine and delicate let me know painted in order amateurs okay so that serious artists yeah but now I'm kind of interested in those issues like why are the materials so gendered material is really critical it doesn't only allow us to create a work of art but it absolutely informs what that work of our you [Music]