Photograph (detail), Pixabay licence.

study days

The Painter’s Craft

  • Thursday 30 March 2023
  • Hilda Clark Suite, Friends House, 173-177 Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ
  • Lecturer: Steven Barrett

The day will provide an in-depth exploration of the painter’s craft focusing on European art from the Medieval period to the present day. The subjects covered include: painting surfaces, pigments and media; painting techniques; varnishing, framing and picture conservation.

Lecture One: Fresco and Panel Painting
How did artists paint on wet plaster? What was the correct way to prepare a wooden panel? What were the challenges and benefits of egg tempera painting? How did painters learn their craft?

Lecture Two: Painting on Paper and Cloth
The advantages and uses of flexible painting supports. How to correctly stretch a canvas and prepare the surface with ground layers. The technique of oil painting and how to clean up. Are acrylics better than oil paints?

Lecture Three: Pigments
Certain pigments – ‘red earth’ for example – have been in use since pre-history; others are brand new. How are pigments turned into paint? How do painters choose colours for a palette and are some impossible to do without?

Lecture Four: Looking after Paintings
How are paintings protected? Why are frames used and how are they selected? What is the difference between conservation and restoration? How are paintings conserved in museums and galleries and what happens when things go wrong?


 Steven Barrett has been a lecturer at the National Gallery since 2004 and is an Arts Society accredited lecturer. He has lectured in the History of European Art and Architecture at Somerset House and taught courses on art and architecture at The City Lit and Bishopsgate Institute. Steven is a regular gallery and museum guide for U3A. He recently presented our study day on Cézanne in July. Steven is also a painter.

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