Faces of Mona Lisa or Vermeer’s Girl with Pearl Earring are timeless. But look closer and you’ll see the time in action.
Oil paint tends to crack. With time these cracks create a dense pattern on the surface of a painting. Fine art prints should reproduce that pattern as it is an inherent part of a piece of art.
Funnily enough, there are different ‘styles’ of craquelure depending on where and when the paintings have been created. Obviously, artists from different periods and regions have been using different ingredients to produce paints, varnishes, fixatives, primers, etc.
Equally important is the painting surface, whether it is a wood panel or canvas.
Science in cracks
The most evident example of craquelure peculiar to Italian Renaissance paintings is Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. A very dense network of tiny cracks encrusts the entire painted surface but the most apparent is on the face of Gioconda.
Dutch Golden Age paintings react differently to aging and drying, yet another way behave French works from the 18th century. Believe it or not, there is a whole science around it.
Face in the web
Personally, I like the web of cracks on the face of Vermeer’s Girl with Pearl Earring. Certainly, a good Photoshop professional is able to smooth the image up. Stranger things have happened on Instagram.
However, as a result, we could lose some essential character of the painting. That’s why a perfect art print should recreate such details with the best accuracy.
I like to think about what cracks did to iconic Kazimir Malevich Black Square. One critic wrote: ‘The painting looks terrible: crackled, scuffed, and discoloured, as if it had spent the past 88 years patching a broken window.’
I see some philosophical beauty in it. Malevich thought about Black Square as ‘zero point of painting’. With it, he deleted the entire history of art and started from scratch.
So, Black Square is more of a concept than real work. But the idea of a black square on a white surface could not have cracks. These imperfections bring the painting back to reality.
Beautiful, isn’t it?
The idea of Black Square. Or copy after Malevich by Photoshop.