Do I need a Lead Based Ground to Build a Strong Painting?ApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
Question asked 2018-02-19 20:26:42 ...
Most recent comment 2018-03-06 11:33:28
Grounds / Priming
I am interested in building an archivally sound painting. I have been told that a lead based ground will strengthen the oil paint all the way through the paint surface, and therefore is the most archivally sound way to build a painting. I would prefer to build it in other ways and am wondering if I can be effective in matching the performance of lead. Here are my methods: A rigid, cradled panel support behind an evenly stretched 16 oz tightly woven canvas, or a high grade linen, Gamblin PVA sizing, front and back of the fabric, Golden Acrylic Gesso, five coats (slightly diluted), underpaintings in undiluted Gamblin FastMatte Alkyd Safflower oil paints, a series glazes of Gamblin FastMatte paints, diuted to glaze consistance with Gamblin Solvent Free Fluid and applied with high paint spread.
Answers and Comments
There are a few points here that need clarification. Lead
white is the most flexible oil primer and is responsible for the continued
existence of many old master paintings. It is the continued flexibility of the
lead white oil ground that contributes to the survival of subsequent paint
layer. It does not really chemically change later paint layers making them more
resilient. This beneficial effect is most obvious when painting on flexible
supports as they are the most responsive to changes in relative humidity. You
are proposing stretching your fabric over a rigid support which with will go a
long way to protecting your work from physical damage due to impacts and will
serve as an environmental buffer, slowing down the effects of changes in
As to sizing, I see no benefit to using PVA size under an
acrylic dispersion ground, although it would probably be fine. PVA is generally
used under an oil ground as a replacement for animal glue.
If it were me I would use an acrylic dispersion medium as a
size (see out “Resources” section on sizes) since that will be the binder in
the ground and will behave in a similar manner. It also seems to create a more
rigid fabric support. Perform a search on MITRA discussing the difference
between acrylic dispersion and PVA sizes.
I wonder why and how you intend on sizing both sides of the
fabric. If it were me, I would either adhere the fabric to the pane with the
acrylic medium or if you wanted reversibility, which is understandable, I would
first size the surface of the panel, allow it to dry, then stretch the fabric
over the panel, and then size the surface of the fabric.
The reason I write this is that it is difficult, or at least
laborious, to size both sides of the fabric without creating buckling which is
difficult to remove during stretching. This can be done, but it requires that
you stretch a slightly larger piece of fabric on a working stretcher that
allows access to both sides. You apply the size to one side and then the other
while the first is still wet. Let this dry and apply another coat on both sides
in the same manner. Let the whole dry overnight. Remove from the working
strainer and stretch over the panel before applying the ground. This process is
far more likely to produce a planer surface.
I see no problem with your proposed paint layers.
Finally, I cannot say if this system is an exact substitute
for a painting on a lead white ground, but it does sound like a sound method.
I have sent a note to representatives at Gamblin to weigh in on this.
view sizing the back of fabric supports as a means to further reduce
absorbency of the fabric and seal is off from atmospheric moisture. As
Brian mentioned, this work will
be done by the rigid support backing in your case. PVA Size underneath
acrylic gesso is superfluous in the structure you described. I do,
however, advocate for the use of oil/alkyd ground rather than acrylic
gesso, as oil/alkyd grounds are less absorbent.
Oil colors are formulated to have an appropriate balance of pigment and
oil for any given color, which effects color strength, texture, surface
quality as well as flexibility of the resulting paint film. Absorbent
grounds will through off this balance and
generally reduce the flexibility of paint layers. I cannot speak for
all oil/alkyd grounds on the market, so I am referencing Gamblin Oil
Painting Ground here.
Product Manager Gamblin Artists Colors
To the OP, re-reading your post I just noticed that you mentioned chalk ground on canvas. Please note that a chalk-glue ground sould not be used on canvas as it is far too brittle for a flexible support. The only time this would be appropriate is when the fabric is completely glued to a rigid panel and the fabric is then completely covered with the chalk-glue ground. In this structure the fabric is acting as an interlayer and is not really carrying the weight of the ground and paint.
I will answer on behalf of Brian as well here. He is well aware of the fact that lead can form metal soaps...as are many of the moderators on this forum. However when one is talking about zinc containing films vs. lead containing films there is hardly a comparison when dealing with film strength and flexibility. Zinc is known to cause paint/ground layers to become increasingly more brittle over time (note this has really only been observed in oil-containing films to date NOT acrylics). There are extreme examples of lead soap formation however where the soaps have actually migrated to the surface of the painting and "erupted," causing all sort of unappealing micro-craters to form. But the number of Old Master paintings that possess lead-containing pigments that are in great shape is significant...realize that a certain number of lead soaps are needed to actually impart film strength and flaxibility.While there has been an exhaustive amount of research regarding lead soaps (almost too much imo) we still have yet to learn about what causes these metal ions to migrate to the surface and cause the unaesthetic look I described above. There is some evidence that this phenomenon can be linked to high levels of humidity and/or exposure to higher temperatures....which leads me then to the big question as to how traditional lining and consolidation techniques may have impacted the migration of lead soaps. In the past, restorers would frequently use aqueous-based adhesives combined with heat to consolidate flaking paint and to line paintings. Finally, we still have yet to look into how flooding one's paint with lead driers can affect this issue (again I raise my eyebrow at this given the fact that so many studies have been done on lead soaps....WHY this has not been explored is beyond me). Just wanted to clarify a few things and add some additional info as to where we are regarding the lead soap phenomenon. It is almost an entirely different beast than when dealing with zinc....I would much rather have to deal with an Old Master painting that has a few tiny unsightly micro-craters (that can be inpainted out with reversible conservation colors) than an oil painting that is globally delaminating because it is on a zinc white-oil ground.
Kristin’s has written a very complete answer here. What you
point out is certainly technically true. Its effect in this instance would
probably be minimal and I neglected to bring it into the discussion. I attended
when Mecklenburg presented this information. I was responding to a separate issue and did
say that lead is preferable but that what the OP proposed appeared sound. Thanks
for bringing this topic into the discussion.
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