You could be forgiven for believing that the “airbrush” is a digital Photoshop tool that was invented in the 20th century, designed to make models and celebrities appear flawless in their photographs. But in actual fact, this handy little instrument was designed in Victorian times.
The new artistic brush, or “colour applier”, was an American invention that served to shorten the time required to apply a smooth tone of colour to a work of art.
The 19th century airbrush consisted of a spoon-like reservoir, which contained a little of the colour to be applied. Through this liquid, a fine needle darted rapidly backwards and forwards, its wetted point projecting each time beyond the edge of the spoon. A strong current of air from a pair of bellows, (manipulated by the foot of the artist), blew past the point, and sprayed the paint in a fine mist against the paper. If the needlepoint was held close to the paper, the result was a fine line, which could be broadened by withdrawing the point from the paper.
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