John O'Flynn - Artist

John O'Flynn - Artist

What Drives Art : Technique or Aesthetics?

Corot, "Rome From The Pincio"

I’ve often thought developments in artistic styles and philosophies have as much to do with technique and technical developments as with aesthetics. For instance Impressionism seems to me to have developed –literally -out of paint being made available in handy tin tubes (rather than being stored in pigs bladders etc as they had to be before): not alone were oil colours now eminently more portable but the nature of the paint – or its application also changed. While in Kennedy’s Art Shop here in Dublin the other day Conor Kennedy ventured to suggest that glazing in Old Masters pictures was developed to keep apart pigments that otherwise would interact negatively with each other, ie such pigments were kept isolated from each other by being sealed in successive layers of glaze (that is, translucent/transparent dried films of oil). He also mentioned an experimental 19thCentury pigment called "asphaltum", a black, which was used by Corot – and never really dried at all. So much so that his father used to bring him to the Dublin City Art Gallery The Hugh Lane when he was young and point out where the black pigment was still leaching out thru cracks in the varnish layer. Today  representational artists idealize Old Masters materials & techniques, and to be sure those that survive well in our museums can’t be second guessed for their longevity and optical brilliance. It is a pity we have to be so suspicious of modern paint manufacturers – tho great gains in our knowledge must have been made thru modern chemistry, we cannot trust that it is not trumped in the art shop by commercial concerns….


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