A Word About Technique

Nettie was very serious and conscientious about her work and in her life, and at the same time highly emotional, strong, spontaneous and quick.

She used to create multiple drawings and watercolours on the same or similar subjects. This allowed her to work without underpaintings or underdrawings and to work directly and spontaneously on the canvas or paper.

Early on in her career she used to use oils thinned with turpentine for her paintings. But her allergy of turpentine forced her to switch to petrol as a thinning agent, which added a somewhat dry look to the paint. It annoyed her.

After consultation with her father and teacher M.M. van Dantzig – who experimented with emulsion paints – she started mixing oils with egg yolk and a hint of bees wax, dissolved in petrol.

Dora A. van Dantzig

One of Nettie Bromberg's tutors was M.M. van Dantzig, father of Doortje van Dantzig, a restorer from Amsterdam. Doortje relates the following about Nettie and herself: Nettie was a good friend of my parents so I have known her all my life.
She was one of the sweetest people that I've ever known; a very loyal friend, who went to great lengths for me. After my father's death my tie with Nettie became even closer.
I regularly stayed over at her place and thoroughly enjoyed the landscape – which I used to paint, too. Nettie made portraits of me as a child, and also of my children.

Click here for an extensive biography of Nettie Bromberg.

zelfportretPreparing this emulsion is a bit like making mayonnaise: after continuous stirring the paint will bind and stop flowing.

Nettie was impatient and did not always take the time to remix her emulsions. The effect is still noticeable in her paintings from before approx. 1960 – they have a tendency to flake.

This led to intense correspondence between her and my father: she accused him of faulty techniques, while he reproached her for being sloppy in return. Nevertheless, they remained the best of friends.

After my father's death in 1960 and still facing ongoing technical issues, she continued the correspondence with me. (I am a paintings restorer.)

Top: Flaking self-portrait; emulsion paint on canvas, ca. 1956.
Right: Boy playing the violin in the street; last period.

vioolspelend-jongetjeWTogether we came to the conclusion that so-called ketone resin, a synthetic resin with many good properties, was easier to mix than the emulsion paint.

From then on Nettie's started working with increasingly thinner paints, and she lowered the amount of egg yolk in them. The paintings from that period suffer less from flaking.

Later on in her life she would alternate thin, glazing layers of oil paint and ketone resin, allowing her to achieve the watercolour-like effect (see the Boy playing the violin opposite) that would become increasingly manifest in her paintings, but without affecting the fixed structure.
In the end she would use thick paint only for highlighting purposes.

These paintings no longer suffer from flaking.

Doortje van Dantzig

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