Neapolitan gouache

* …Nu quadro è luntananza…

The technique of “gouache,” or “guazzo,” has always been used in painting, but it is in the landscape genre in the eighteenth century that it yields its most significant results. In Naples it spread from the second half of the 18th century and lasted throughout the 19th century. The technique uses water as the basic solvent with the addition of rubber to agglutinate the color. The resulting effect is a light painting somewhere between tempera and watercolor: the tones are less full-bodied than in tempera, and the reduction in intensity is achieved not by thinning the color, but through the addition of white.

Neapolitan gouache Temples of Paestum - C03162
Neapolitan gouache Temples of Paestum – C03162

It is a quick technique that allows no regrets because the color dries quickly. The “guazzo” colors tend to be opaque, a quality that gives the view a softness and velvety elegance. Generally made on rough or smooth paper, never on canvas. Sometimes, the Neapolitan ones are signed or feature a description of the subject depicted. The authorship of the “guazzo” should be credited to the landscape painter Jacob Philipp Hackert (1737- 1807) chamber painter of Ferdinand IV of Bourbon, who included the use of this technique in the varied panorama of Neapolitan landscape painting.

This art form, soon takes on specific purposes, for a specific patronage. Indeed, these are souvenirs of the fascinating city of Naples and its surroundings.
Vesuvian eruptions, sunsets over the sea, festivals, and colorful commoners, which are bought by enthusiastic “Grand Tour” travelers. It is these, intellectuals, professionals, aristocrats, who like to preserve, back home, memories of the places they visited.

* È un quadro da guardare da lontano”

Neapolitan gouache Temples of Paestum - C03162
Neapolitan gouache Temples of Paestum – C03162

Do you ever see a man or a woman, from a distance, breathtakingly beautiful, to make you weak in the knees, and gradually that the distances become shorter, and the focus becomes sharper, that “picture” looks cheesy, loses its beauty ? An optical illusion. Cammenanno pe Tuledo. Na matina comme n’ata. Na bella jurnata ‘e sole,d’ ‘e Quartiere panne spase. ‘O sguardo mio curiusese posa a tutte cose… Pure si diceno male, sta città è sempe viva. Arrivato a piazza Carità, na luce… – Camillo De Felice –

“He meant that certain paintings should be looked at exclusively from a distance, because only from a certain distance can their beauty be appreciated. As soon as you get close, in fact, the contours become undefined, the harmony disappears, and instead you notice the brushstrokes, the grooves left by the bristles, the clumps of color, the texture of the canvas, the imperfections, the chromatic chaos, the pungent smell of turpentine essence.
Naples was like that: wonderful from afar; disheveled, ineffable indecent up close. ‘Nu quadro ‘e luntananza, il paradiso abitato dai diavoli” – Franco Di Mare –


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