Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Drawing with Charcoal: Historical Techniques of 19th Century France

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These are some of the intrinsic qualities of charcoal

that artists are drawn to.

Charcoal comes from charred pieces of wood,

capable of producing a range of tones that are easily reworked.

But because charcoal particles are large,

they don't readily adhere to a surface.

And so finished works of art could not be made with

the medium until the 18th and 19th centuries,

when artists had the means to bind or fix it

to paper--producing a golden glow.

Timothy Mayhew demonstrates the techniques used by French

artists who fell in love with charcoal...

among them Maxime Lalanne, whose "Castle Overlooking a River"

exemplifies their methods.

Working outdoors, the artist brings an easel

and a portable frame covered with stretched paper, which

resembles a painter's canvas.

The paper itself is textured--ideal for holding


The artist also brings a variety of drawing tools and materials.

Using the side of a stick of charcoal,

he puts down large areas of tone--the foreground,

middle ground, and sky.

He blends these broad strokes with a cloth

or a feather, to soften them.

Another way to apply the medium smoothly

is with a brush dipped into a powdery form of charcoal.

To make marks, 19th-century artists typically

used a pencil-like holder for charcoal, which they handled

like a small paintbrush.

The key is to apply everything lightly,

so that the luminous white of the paper shows through,

and marks are easy to erase.

Drawing with charcoal also involves selectively removing

it, to create highlights.

Various tools can be used, including a brush.

Artists of the past often used kneaded bread just

like an eraser.

Tightly rolled paper or leather with a tapered end, called

a stump, also works well.

Stumps or a finger can be used for blending.

A charcoal drawing emerges over time

through layers of soft tones and selectively placed darker ones.

19th-century artists typically protected their drawings

by brushing a resin-based fixative solution

across the back of the paper.

In 1850s France, artists produced

soft, ethereal-looking landscapes with charcoal.

Only a few decades later, darker-toned drawings

were more in vogue, typically representing somber subjects

or night scenes.

Artists began working not just with charcoal,

but with similar powdery materials--black chalk,

conte crayon, pastel--or they combined them.

Experimentation emphasized the medium itself as integral

to a work of art.

The Description of Drawing with Charcoal: Historical Techniques of 19th Century France