The "painterly" approach was originally an incidental effect most common in sketches and studies, the sole purpose of which was to help the artist solve some of the problems in the execution of a more refined painting. Titian and Rembrandt became more "painterly" in their later years, when deteriorating eyesight may have hidden the irregularities from them (one hypothesis). Franz Hals painted a number of paintings in the sketch style, probably for his own amusement and/or to cover his bar tab or whatever. He was capable of more refined painting, as is evident in most of his more important commissioned portraits, but employed the faster "alla prima" approach for painting more light-hearted subjects; probably his friends or interesting subjects encountered at the tavern, where no one was likely to pose for very long.
Bouguereau has been falsely characterized as disguising his brushstrokes, but his brushwork is actually visible from up close. In reproductions the strokes do not show, because the paintings are generally large, with the main figures life-size, and the brushstrokes are small. He also used palette knife very expertly for certain effects, especially in the vegetation and other parts of the background, but generally did not employ impasto.
The 'painterly' style became more popular with John Singer Sargent, Anders Zorn, and Joachin Sorolla. Sargent actually worked very hard to achieve the effect that he had dashed the picture off effortlessly and accurately all at once. Many passages were scraped out and repainted over and over again until the desired appearance was accomplished. There is a certain charm in this type of painting (see opposite), but its effectiveness depends on the values and colors being registered extremely accurately, or the result just looks sloppy. Sargent's eye was precise enough to make it work. Ironically, he expressed regret, late in life, that he had not carried his paintings to a higher degree of finish. The main trick to painting in this manner is to work fast, with large hog- bristle brushes and large amounts of paint available on the palette. palette knife can also be used for certain effects. A somewhat rougher texture canvas works best for this technique, in my experience. Some subjects are more suited for this approach than others. It is well for artists to be able to paint in more than one manner, and to choose whichever technique best suits the subject at hand.
Regarding impasto highlights, the reason for this is to ensure that they remain opaque far into the future. Oil paint becomes more transparent as it ages, and the thinner the paint, the more transparent it will become. Highlights must be opaque in order to reflect the light which strikes them in the same way as it would reflect from the surface depicted.'
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