I have worked figures on a frieze with a brush on a fibrous plaster panel, and had them cast afterwards, since plaster and glue on large surfaces without fibre is apt to crack off. "The Dance" was a frieze panel worked in this way.

There are various patents and materials in the market for working in gesso. One of the best I have met with is called "Denoline." It consists of a fine powder, sold in tins, which only requires to be mixed with cold water to convert it into a paste of any consistency required. Flour appears to be an ingredient, and wheat flour, I believe, was used by the old Italian gesso workers.

The frame border was worked in this material, the gesso mixed as stiffly as possible, laid on and modelled with an ordinary modelling tool. It dries slowly and can be retouched. It is a little too sticky, and no doubt requires, like all the different varieties of gesso, its own peculiar treatment.

Gesso Panel

Gesso Panel

Designed by Walter Crane

The Dance: Frieze Panel in Gesso

The Dance: Frieze Panel in GessoPicture frame in Oak with Gesso (Denoline) Filling

Picture-frame in Oak with Gesso ("Denoline") Filling

Designed by Walter Crane

It might seem at first sight that such a material had no particular limitations or natural laws which in all art are so serviceable in evolving what we call style. Yet elastic as it appears to be, and possessing such considerable range of effect, experience soon teaches us that it has its own most fitting characteristics and tendencies in ornament. The artist, so far from desiring to disguise the real conditions of the work, would rather emphasize their peculiar characteristics. For instance, in laying on and modelling any design in gesso with a brush, he will find the brush and the paste conspire together to favour the production of certain forms of ornament, delicate branch and leaf and scroll work, for instance, and dotted borderings.

Treatment of Form in Gesso Decoration

Treatment of Form in Gesso Decoration

By Walter Crane

Such forms as these the brush, charged with gesso, almost naturally takes, and the leaf shapes may be considered almost as the reflection of the form of the brush itself.

The modelling of the more raised smooth parts is produced by gradually and lightly adding - superimposing while moist fresh gesso, on the system of pate sur pate, which amalgamates with that underneath. The artist, in modelling the limbs of figures, would emphasize the main muscular masses, allowing for the natural tendency of the paste to soften its own edges in running together: so that a limb would be built up somewhat in the way indicated in the drawing by successive layers of the material floated over each other while moist. Of course, the success of the result depends upon not only the nicety of touch but also on the proper consistency of the gesso, which, if mixed too thin, would be likely to lose form and run out of bounds. Gesso, therefore, for brush work should be mixed like the valetudinarian's gruel in one of Miss Austen's novels - "Thin, but not too thin."

System of Modelling with the Brush in Gesso

System of Modelling with the Brush in Gesso

It is of little use giving exact quantities, since satisfactory working depends upon all sorts of variable conditions, almost in the nature of accidents, such as temperature, quality of the materials, and nature of tools, none of which behaves exactly in the same way on all occasions,

Gesso Decoration the Dining Room,

1a, Holland Park

Frieze and Panel over Fireplace and subsidiary work on the Woodwork of the Fireplace, Designed by Walter Crane. The Fire place

Frieze and Panel over Fireplace and subsidiary work on the Woodwork of the Fireplace, Designed by Walter Crane. The Fire-place

Designed by Philip Webb From a Photograph by W. E. Gray

Gesso Decoration: the Dining Room,

Gesso Decoration: the Dining Room,

1a, Holland

Park

Designed by Walter Crane.

The Side-board

Designed by Philip Webb. From a Photograph by W. E. Gray

Gesso Decoration: Detail of Coffered Ceiling,

1a, Holland Park

Gesso Decoration: Detail of Coffered Ceiling,

Designed by Walter Crane.

From a Photograph by W. E.

Gray and this variability must necessarily lead to different results in different hands.

It is only personal experience of the subtle mechanical and material conditions which are in-

Gesso Panel Silvered and Tinted with Coloured Lacquers (part of Frieze in Dining Room at 1a, Holland Park)

Gesso Panel Silvered and Tinted with Coloured Lacquers (part of Frieze in Dining-Room at 1a, Holland Park)

Designed by Walter Crane.

From a Photograph by W. E.

Gray separable parts of the production of all work of the nature of art, which can really determine their fitness to each individual worker, who must sooner or later, if his work is alive, make certain variations to suit his own particular idiosyncrasies.

Panel in Gesso, Tinted with Lacquers and Lustre Paint

Panel in Gesso, Tinted with Lacquers and Lustre Paint

Designed by Walter Crane

It is perfectly hopeless to attempt to,pursue any form of art on purely mechanical precepts and principles. A few plain and practical directions, as to a traveller seeking- his road in an unknown land, may be given, and the rest must be learnt step by step in experience, and as much as can be gathered from opportunities of seeing the work done by skilled hands, from which, indeed, everything learnable can be learnt.

Panel in Gesso, Tinted with Lacquer

Panel in Gesso, Tinted with Lacquer

Designed by WalterCrane

Even complete mastery over materials is, after all, not everything. In fact, from the artistic (or inventive) point of view, work only begins there, as expression comes after or with speech.

Design has much analogy to poetry. Unless the motive is real and organic, unless the thought and form have something individual in them, unless the feeling is true, it fails to interest us. Herein lies the whole question of artistic production.

Yet is it worth while to learn what can be learnt about any form of art, if only it enables one to realize its true nature and something of the laws of its expression, which knowledge, at least, if it does not confer creative power, greatly increases the intelligent pleasure of its appreciation.