It is worth seeing…
Luxury is a great patron of the arts. Perhaps not as intense in the past as it is in the present, the luxury became the driving force behind art in the economic world. As much as I am fascinated by luxury I am interested in artistic masterpieces too. Thus, I was delighted to discover the most recent exhibition at The National Gallery in London and tell you my perspective in the nutshell.
As the press release states the exhibition called “Making Colour”, is the first exhibition of its kind in the UK. It invites the viewer to an artistic and scientific voyage of discovery. From sparkling minerals to crushed insects by an interactive display that introduces a new world of contemporary scientific thought colour. Apparently, work on this subject has long been a specialism of the Gallery’s internationally recognised Scientific Department.
Wikiart – Pierre Auguste Renoir – The Seine At Asnieres The Skiff
My first delight came with a painting of Renoir, “the skiff”. Not to mention that impressionism has always been my favourite period in art, Renoir as its famous ambassador, was the painter who has always managed to get me in this perfect, contemplative mood. The optimistic and colourful stories of real people drinking and having fun have always pleased my eyes.
My thoughts were directed to the rich orange hue of “the skiff” against the blue of the river which dominated on the painting. Since blue and orange are opposites on the colour scale, they become more intense and gave energy to the painting. This mode of mixing colours was only discovered in the thirties of XIX century by Michel Eugene Chevreul, 100 years before Renoir.
Although paintings and colours dominate at the exhibition, it was difficult to ignore the connection between art and science. Curators of the exhibition made the viewer understand how artists overcame the technical challenges involved in creating colour. It examined the origins of paint sources – be it the natural world or human invention – and their supply, manufacture and application, as well as their permanence and colour effect.
For instance, in order to paint the most stunning blue on a dress of Virgin Mary the special ultramarine hue was used. The finest and most expensive of all blue pigments was extracted from lapis-lazuli mineral from the Middle East. At the end of the Middle Ages the mineral began to be exported to Europe and lately used by the most important artists of the Renaissance and Baroque including Vermeer and Masaccio. The super-rich red hue, made from the mineral called realgar, was a natural mineral of arsenic sulphide and was considered as a deadly pigment for painters. Greens achieved from copper carbonate were used to cover roofs and old sculptures (such as the Statue of Liberty).
Apart from the central importance of colour to paintings I was delighted to see textiles, ceramic and glass, all synchronically grouped by matching colours, demonstrated the material connections in these sister arts.
We could observe the creation of new colours such as Prussian blue, discovered at the beginning of XVIII century and used by Canaletto in his famous skies.
Pubhist.com – Degas – Combing the Hair
The real revolution however, came in XIX century. It allowed Degas to play with different shades of red presented on his painting “Combing the Hair” or other impressionists to experiment with shades of blue. For centuries painters had to mix yellow with blue to achieve green and the revolution of starting to manufacture viridian in 1860 made artists’ life easier.
However, nobody knows for how long the most astonishing pigments which used to achieve the most stunning yellows and reds will be available of the market for. As those pigments consist of cadmium, the EU wants to forbid using toxic colours in modern paintings as they are dangerous to life. I can reassure you that pigments used on our coloured crystal glasses are safe to your health.