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Mixed Materials
Granular washes at top right of Dove's painting as seen through the microscope. The field of view is 3/4" in diameter.

Mixed Materials

Many artists have experimented with mixtures of materials, some not commonly used in works of art on paper. Based on formulations in artist’s manuals, Arthur Dove combined beeswax, resins, oils, egg yolk and colorants to prepare what is called a wax emulsion. He was also known for painting à l'essence (with solvent), using turpentine to thin out oil and wax paints to create washes that appeared similar to watercolor washes but with a more granular quality.

Examples of painting à l'essence and in wax emulsion.

Examples from the Collection


Abstract Study with Orange, Yellow, Green, and Purple Curving Lines
Abstract Study with Orange, Yellow, Green, and Purple Curving Lines, 1943-1944
Arthur Garfield Dove, American
Colored wax emulsion on wove paper
Sheet: 2 15/16 x 4 inches (7.5 x 10.2 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William C. Dove, 1986
[ More Details ]

Arthur Dove executed numerous sketches exploiting the optical effects and handling properties of painting materials. This is one of a series of intimate yet vivid color landscape sketches created late in Dove's career, between 1942-1944, while he resided in a one-room cottage as he recovered from illness. The small scale (approximately 3" x 4") of these sketches represents a break from the large format canvas paintings Dove is best known for and reflects his keen interest in experimentation with surface effects and drawing materials, exploring various binding media and chromatic effects.

Dove's diaries from this period indicate that the sketches were painted using a variety of materials - watercolor, wax emulsion, egg tempera, oil and natural resins, more often in combination than alone. To distinguish the media used in the individual sketches by visual characteristics alone was neither straightforward nor reliable. Technical examination of the sketch shown here suggests that Dove thinned wax emulsion and oil paints with turpentine, just as one might dilute watercolor paints with water, and applied the washes to a heavyweight paper, possibly using his fingers. The washes have a granular appearance imparted by nubs of wax that contain greater pigment concentrations.


Study Sheet for Seated Figures
Study Sheet for Seated Figures, 1945
Henry Moore, English
Wax crayon, wax resist, pen and black ink and wash, graphite, and white opaque watercolor on wove paper
Sheet: 24 7/8 x 19 inches (63.2 x 48.3 cm)
The Louis E. Stern Collection, 1963
[ More Details ]

Best known for his monumental sculptures, the Englishman Henry Moore was also a prolific draughtsman and printmaker. In his drawings he frequently used what is called a wax resist process. As seen in Study Sheet for Seated Figures in Terracotta, he first sketched the sculptural forms in white and colored crayons, then coated the entire sheet with gray watercolor wash. Repelled by the waxy crayons and staining the paper through gaps in the wax, the wash created distinctive textures on the pale crayon forms and darkened the expanse of surrounding paper.

The artist developed the figures further with pen and black ink, black and gray crayons and white opaque watercolor. The abstracted organic forms, set against the dark washed background, take on a sculptural quality of their own. Many of Moore's drawings, such as this figure grouping, were preparatory studies for sculpture while others were independent studies that he undertook to expand his repertoire. According to the artist, "Drawing keeps one fit, like physical exercises, and it lessens the danger of repeating oneself and getting into a formula."

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