Historical Paint, Part III

Posted in books by Editor on August 14, 2011

As we wrap up this small series on historical paint, the following books might be useful for further reading:

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Ian Bristow, Architectural Colour in British Interiors, 1615-1840 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996), 288 pages, ISBN: 9780300038668, $150.

Paint is ephemeral: it fades and discolors and is obliterated by succeeding phases of redecoration. Until recently, this has presented a significant obstacle in researching the architectural colours used in British interiors of earlier centuries but, in this study, Ian C. Bristow combines information from documentary sources with data obtained from the technical investigation of significant interiors by important architects of the period. He has thus been able to establish a coherent outline of true historical practice, which hs here presented for the first time.

Bristow contrasts the noble interiors of Inigo Jones with more intimate spaces of the period. He then sets the succeeding drabness adopted in many rooms in the second half of the seventeenth century against the era’s taste for marbling, graining, and imitation Japan. Moving on to consider the eighteenth century, he shows how the new foundation established by the Palladians came to provide the basis for the lively use of colour by Robert Adam and his contemporaries. Finally he examines how the development of colour theory in the early nineteenth century superseded eighteenth-century ideas and, combined with the Regency taste for the exotic, led to an entirely new outlook, much of which has lasted to the present day. Bristow’s book is an essential complement to more conventional architectural studies of form and space and a key text for students of all aspects of the historic interior.

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Ian Bristow, Interior Housepainting Colours and Technology, 1615-1840 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996), 288 pages, ISBN: 9780300038675.

The study of historic architectural colour is a developing field, with information greatly in demand by all those with an interest in the redecoration of historic interiors. In this volume, Ian C. Bristow describes the techniques and materials used in interiors by early housepainters, providing comprehensive coverage for architects, historians, interior decorators, and others with a more general leaning to the topic.

Bristow points out the differences between painting materials used for fine art as opposed to house painting. Drawing on English and French sources, he discusses the pigments used; the oils, resins, solvents, and water-based media involved; the way these were applied; techniques for imitating various architectural materials in paint; and the mixing of colours. A glossary of contemporary color names is illustrated by samples showing some of the tints obtainable, while marbles and timbers to which references have been found are listed and reproduced. This study will be of interest to all working in the
field of historic paintwork.

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