Take some blue glass, grind it, and turn it into paint: Smalt is one of the strangest of pigments. It extensively used until replaced by Prussian Blue in the early 1700s, and is making a comeback.
Arsenic sulphides, they were both used in alchemy, and used commonly in paintings from Ancient Egypt through to the late 29th century. Tintoretto loved them.
What turns statues and copper roofs blue-green? ‘Copper rust’, the basis of the intense green pigment Verdigris, used by all the Masters.
Used since Roman times, it was common in the dress of saints. Highly toxic, it was progressively replaced by cadmium red in the late 19th century.
Indian Yellow was thought to have been extracted from cow urine, but has been found in few paintings. Chrome Yellow was the mainstay of the Impressionists and the nineteenth century.
It isn’t really a pigment at all, was reportedly used by all the Masters from Titian to Delacroix, and destroys the paint layer. But it has actually been found in very few paintings.
Introduced in about 1806, it was used by Turner, Friedrich, Delacroix, Corot, the Pre-Raphaelites, the Impressionists, and many others. With examples of those works.
Materials determine what is possible in painting, and pigments are central to that. This series looks at the history and use of different pigments, with extensive examples of their use.
Did the Impressionists invent plein air painting? And was Impressionism dependent on the supply of oil paints in tubes?
The EU may have abandoned plans to ban cadmium from artists paints, but where are we now?