Pentimenti – “A painter’s term for the evidence in a work that the original composition has been changed. Often the opaque pigment with which the artist covered a mistake or unwanted beginnings will, with time or injudicious cleaning, become transparent, and a revelation of original intentions will become visible through the finished composition.” Columbia Encyclopedia
David Cohen writes in his recent review of Jenny Saville’s show at Gagosian Gallery, “True pentimenti arise in the struggle to find position, to define form; they are retained either because the artist has no interest in disguising what led to the discovery; or else, sometimes, because they add texture, and thus heft, to an image (think Matisse, whose pentimenti somehow never undermine the illusion of single shot miracle in his charcoal drawings). Or else, a tolerable mannerism, pentimenti can signal the effort and time that were necessary to fix the image and thus are part of that image (Larry Rivers, Frank Auerbach, Eugene Leroy.)”
My paintings often include pentimenti, as I layer paint over paint and modify color and composition. Sometimes I paint over old paintings, which is technically not pentimenti, but who’s going to argue the point? I like previous layers showing through…it’s less about mannerism and more about adding richness and unexpected passages to a painting.
Dear MS. Downs,
“Migration” is a terrific picture. It has a wonderful color–you know the one I mean.