The texture of capitalism: industrial oil colours and the politics of paint in the work of G. F. Watts

Kirsty Sinclair Dootson

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Abstract

This article considers how the industrial production of artists’ colours, or oil paint, in the second half of the nineteenth century affected artistic practice. The transformation of paint-making from an artisanal craft into an industrial process did not change the hue or saturation of colours, but radically altered their texture. It was through the materiality of their paints that artists became aware of the impact industrialisation had upon their practice; texture itself became a flashpoint for debates about the effect of capitalist modernity on painting in particular and society more broadly. This article examines how the painter George Frederic Watts mobilised the texture of his paints to articulate an anti-capitalist, moral aesthetic at a time when mass production made oil colours homogenously buttery and smooth, as well as fugitive and unstable.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Art Studies
Issue number14
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2019

Keywords

  • Colour
  • Materiality
  • Victorian painting
  • Technology
  • British art

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