ARTS 125
Introduction to Fresco Painting Materials and Techniques Spring 2023
Division I
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Class Details

This course offers a rare introduction to the materials, methods, and chemistry of buon fresco: the ancient craft of wall-painting with earth and mineral pigments onto freshly applied lime plaster. Fresco painting is an emphatically collaborative tradition, and as such we will treat the studio-classroom as a shared laboratory for collective study and practice. Working together, students will gain hands-on experience with every step of the fresco-painting process: we will grind earth and mineral pigments, sift riverbed sand, mix and apply lime plasters, and paint with pigment suspensions using bristle brushes while following recipes and instructions gleaned from artists’ accounts and painting manuals. Testing a range of fresco techniques on a series of portable panels as well as on a classroom test-wall, students can expect to develop both troweling and painting skills, and to discover the nuances of color and texture that can be achieved through various combinations of natural pigments and plaster. The course will encourage descriptive and instructional writing, diagrammatic drawing, and photographic documentation as tools for craft stewardship and technical knowledge-sharing. Prior experience with drawing and/or painting will be helpful, but are not required. Lectures will provide a historic overview of fresco painting and its uses across cultures, and students will have an opportunity to explore a particular material, chemical, environmental, or socio-political aspect of the centuries-old wall-painting technique through the development of a final essay.
The Class: Format: studio
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 3553
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Students are expected to produce a series of small fresco studies; to maintain a descriptive journal of processes, recipes and observations; and to submit one final essay (5-7 pages). Grading will also take into consideration attendance, the depth and quality of the investigative process, active participation in studio exercises and group discussions, and a demonstrated willingness to collaborate with peers.
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: Current and prospective Art Studio and Art History Majors. If over-enrolled, a wait-list will be maintained. Wait-listed students should submit a brief description of interest to the instructor.
Materials/Lab Fee: $400-$600. Lab and materials fees for all studio art classes are covered by the Book Grant for all Williams financial aid recipients.
Distributions: Division I

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