Modern easel enamel painting
is an amazing and very rare technique, which is used by a very limited number of artists. Just as in miniature enameling, such paintings are painted on thin copper plates and burnt repeatedly in a muffle furnace. This process is long and painstaking, but the result is worth it: bright enamel paints are not afraid of time, and each picture is unique and inimitable. “Bronze sculpture is durable, whereas enamel painting is eternal
,” wrote Leonardo da Vinci
, and he was right.
Enamel is a powder glass, which is fused onto a base at temperatures from 600 to 850 degrees; the base should withstand such a temperature without deformation — like metal, ceramics, stone or glass. The enameling technique is a very old technology that has been used mainly in jewelry and arts and crafts for centuries. The most ancient objects decorated with enamel were rings found in Cyprus, which date back to the 13th century BC. Enamelled jewellery was created by the masters of Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece, Scythians and Sarmatians, Celts and Anglo-Saxons. During the heyday of Byzantium, enamel was used as a substitute for precious stones. The Renaissance brought fashion to miniature portraits and landscapes that were made using the enameling technique, as well as to exquisite household items — inkpots, paperweights, fan handles. Since the 13th century, Oriental artists mastered the enameling.
Interest in easel enamel painting arose in the last third of the 20th century. This type of art requires special equipment, primarily an electric oven capable of supporting a wide range of high temperatures. Each paint used to create enamel has its own burning temperature range. At high temperatures, metal oxides included in paints are destroyed, then the paint may darken, and the enamel layer itself may crack. Therefore, the artist requires not only professional painting training, but also knowledge of enamel burning techniques.
One of the legends of modern enameling is the American Fred Ball, the author of one of the largest enamel frescoes The Way Home, which consists of 1488 square plates measuring 12x12 inches, painted on metal. Ball summarized his many years of research into the properties of enamel in his book Experimental Methods in Enameling (1972). In Russia, the technique of easel enameling began to develop by the 1980s. Artists use both the technique of direct enameling on metal and the cloisonné technique: thin metal contours of images are soldered onto a copper plate and filled with paint and burnt. Among the famous artists who work with hot enamel are Alexander Emelyanov
, Andrey Avdeev, masters of the Russian Enamels creative club, artists of the Rostov school of enamellers.