I've always wondered how an artist decides how to paint the
background of an artwork. Did Sargent--who painted everything, even air, with
volume and texture--employ certain painting techniques for this section of his
works? Are there actual painting art philosophies on backgrounds? Well, I
haven't found any historic treatises, but there are definite underlying schools
of thought. Here's my interpretation:
|Giubbetto rosso by Felice Casorati,
I've seen this approach most often in contemporary
portraiture. There's a semblance of space made with stray brushstrokes that are
usually in a fairly muted, neutral color. The color is perhaps chosen as
complimentary to the figure's skin tone or the color of their garments.
Eye-crossing patterns. Artists can choose to flatten the
picture plane with paint texture or heavy pattern in the background of a
painting. This can sometimes suck figures in, so that it is hard to figure out
where the sitter ends and the wall of pattern begins. But it can also create an
all-over sameness that allows the depicted figures to jut forward, depending on
color and composition usually.
Formed...but not too
much. Early 20th-century painters like Modigliani, Vanessa Bell, and
Felice Casorati were adept at creating a balance of forms in their backgrounds
without putting in too much detail. Their works, therefore, seem to strike a
harmonious balance and allow a certain mutuality to all the spaces they depict.
Everything in sight.
||Interieur by Edouard Vuillard, oil painting, 1902.
Painting everything in a composition
with detail and exactitude is often a way to create a realistically represented
environment. Surroundings can play a significant part of a narrative or the
painter simply believes that realizing those elements on canvas makes the work
Guide is a collection of art lessons from the best artists and instructors
around the country. In this special issue magazine,
you'll find dozens of artistic approaches--on painting foregrounds, backgrounds,
and everywhere in between--that are sure to spark your inspiration in the