Studying the technique of some old masters, we are faced with the so-called “Flemish method” of oil painting. This is a multi-layered, technically complex way of writing, the opposite of the “a la prima” technique. Layering suggested a special depth of image, flicker and radiance of colors. However, in the description of this method, such a mysterious stage as the “dead layer” invariably occurs. Despite the intriguing name, there is no mysticism in it.
But what was it used for?
The term “dead colors” (doodverf – nid. Death of paint) is first found in the work of Karl van Mander’s “Book of Artists”. He could call it a paint, on the one hand, literally, because of the stillness that it gives to the image, on the other hand, it is metaphorical, since this pallor seems to “die” under the subsequent color. Continue reading