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“Magilphs and Mysteries” - Perspectives No. 427

“Magilphs and Mysteries” *

Perspectives No 427


Venice, J.M.W. TurnerVenice                                       J.M.W. Turner

   Whether to use a medium with oil paints is an individual decision. When we polled some of our favorite artists to ask them if they used medium and if so, which one, the answer was very mixed. There are reasons for choosing one medium over another, if using medium at all—to slow or speed drying time, to add translucency, to add or reduce gloss. See: When we need to add flow and some transparency to our pigments, we tend to use Neo Megilp gel (Gamblin). The name is a mouthful, but broken down reveals an interesting history.

   Neo”, of course, means “new”, and Neo Megilp is a contemporary version of Negilp or Maroger, a medium first used in the 1700s. It was sometimes called “Majellup” perhaps a mash-up of the words “mastic” and “jelly”. The original recipe was a mixture of mastic resin and linseed oil with other varied formulas over the decades. Its golden quality was seen as an asset adding a buttery tone to canvases. It’s viscosity added thickness and depth to the painter’s strokes and its use became very popular throughout the 19th century.

   There is a reason why we don’t use the original Megilp today. The jellied mixture of two ordinarily harmless materials—mastic and linseed oil—becomes dangerous on the canvas, degrading, crazing and darkening the paintings made with it. J.M.W. Turner, known for his disregard for the permanence of the pigments he used, was also an enthusiastic user of Megilp.

   The contemporary megilp is considered to be safer and more permanent than its ancestor and yet true to the working properties of the original gel.

More information on this and the history of other mediums and pigments can be found in Victoria Finlay’s book, Color: A Natural History of the Palette. From the book comes the quote—*James Barry warning of artists “who are floating about after Magilphs and mysteries.”




Copyright Hulsey Trusty Designs, L.L.C. (except where noted). All rights reserved.
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Nocturnes - A Primer on Night Painting

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About Us

Photograph of John Hulsey and Ann Trusty in Glacier National Park
We are artists, authors and teachers with over 40 years of experience in painting the world's beautiful places. We created The Artist's Road in order to share our knowledge and experiences with you, and create a community of like-minded individuals.  You can learn more about us and see our original paintings by clicking on the links below.
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