HISTORY OF PIGMENTS AND PALETTES


113. Birren, Faber.  History of Color in Painting. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1965.  304 pp.  Index, B/W illus., color illus.  ISBN 0-442-11118-5. 

    The expressive use of color in painting in Western art from ancient times to the 20th century is the focus of this book which begins with a brief discussion of color theory and gives consideration to various approaches to color harmony, color systems and color relativity, and finally, color perception.  Nearly one-half of the book examines the work of selected great artists from the 17th through the 20th century, surveys their palettes and pigments, and presents tipped-in color chips that represent the palettes.  There is some repetition because palettes and techniques for several artists are discussed both in the early chapter on methods and in the later chapters on historical references.  This fine survey may be Birren’s most important and lasting contribution to the color literature.


114. Bossert, Helmuth.  Encyclopedia of Colour Decoration from the Earliest Times to the Middle of the XIX Century.  Berlin: Wasmuth, 1928.  155 pp. color illus.

    This is a portfolio of specially prepared watercolor reproductions of 225 decorative wall paintings in public and private spaces. The selections include an amazing array of wall paintings from buildings of ancient Egypt and Mycenae, medieval churches, Renaissance palaces, English stately rooms, Leipzig wall paintings of the 1700s, 19th century stenciled wall patterns, and Ukrainian folk art.  Purely decorative elements and details of patterns are also included.  The short text lists the plates, documents their sources, and gives references in the literature.  This fine resource for historic colors and patterns has very good color printing for the time.


115. Cennini, Cennino D’Andrea.  The Craftsman’s Handbook. Translated by Daniel V. Thompson, Jr.  New Haven, Connecticut:  Yale University Press , 1933. Reprint, Dover, n.d..  142 pp.  Index, endnotes/footnotes, B/W illus.

    Medieval materials and techniques for painting and applied arts.are described in a well-documented survey.  Written in the fifteenth century, this work was first printed in Rome in 1821 and translated into several languages throughout the nineteenth century.


116. Feller, Robert L., ed.  Artists' Pigments. Washington:  National Gallery of Art, 1986.  300 pp.  ISBN 0521303745.

    Ten artists’ pigments that are highly important in the history of painting are the focus of this encyclopedic and well-documented publication with a preface by J. Carter Brown.  What is rare is that both scientific and historic aspects are brought together in the ten monographs contributed by 17 scholars.  Organized to be useful to readers with a broad range of interests in artists pigments, this group of monographs systematically covers the nomenclature and general character of each pigment, the history of its use, matters of concern to the artist, its chemical and physical composition, technical methods and procedures used to characterize and identify the pigment, and significant references to its use by a particular artist or in a specific work.  It will also be useful to those researching hiding power, toxicity and compatibility of pigments.


117. Gettens, Rutherford J., and George L. Stout.  Painting Materials.  Reprinted ed. New York:  Dover, 1966. 333 pp.  Bibl., glossary, B/W illus.  ISBN 486-21597-0.

    The authors, experts in the preservation and restoration of paintings, have created an encyclopedic reference on the historic use of mediums, pigments, adhesives, solvents, supports, tools, and equipment.  The chapter on painting contains nearly 100 pages of alphabetically arranged, detailed entries for pigments from alizarin to zinnobar green.  This classic resource for researchers on the historic use of materials and processes includes an extensive bibliography for each chapter.


118. Harley, R. D.  Artists’ Pigments c. 1600 - 1835: A Study in English Documentary Sources. 2nd rev. ed.  London:  Butterworth Scientific, Technical Studies in Art, Archaeology and Architecture, 1982.  236 pp. Index, bibl.  ISBN 0-408-70945-6.

    First published in 1970, this history of painting materials grew out of the author's dissertation research.  The 1982 edition adds George Field's manuscript notebooks and color swatches, now at the Courtauld Institute of Art.  The historical background of painting techniques and knowledge of technology of materials is documented by reference to important literary sources from Theophrastus, Vitruvius, Theophilus, medieval manuscripts, to Daniel V. Thompson and others.  The book, with its comprehensive bibliography, is an important source for history of color use in painting.


119. Levison, Henry W.  Artists’ Pigments:  Lightfastness Tests and Ratings. Hallandale, Florida:  Colorlab, 1976.107 pp.  Index, endnotes/footnotes, B/W illus.

    The discussion of the permanency of pigments, binders, and painting materials addresses such factors affecting color change as drying, dilution, and illumination.  Present day materials, including acrylic paints, are surveyed and data from 423 scientific texts are presented.  This basic reference also treats historical development of paint and considers the present and future of painting materials.


120. Mayer, Ralph.  The Painter’s Craft. New York:  Penguin, 1979. 200 pp.  Index, bibl., B/W illus., color illus.  ISBN 0-14-046-369-0.

    This book for the beginning painter concentrates on technical aspects of materials and procedures.  In dealing with color, the author provides information on the properties of pigments and the fundamental rules of physics and optics which govern the use of color in painting.  He includes a discussion of light waves as they relate to gloss and matte papers.  Although he recognizes the importance of color systems, aesthetics, and color harmony, he does not cover them.


121. Rood, Roland.  Color and Light in Painting.  New York:  Columbia University Press, 1941.  299 pp.  Index, B/W illus.

    The author, son of the physicist Ogden Rood known for his Modern Chromatics (1879), combines his knowledge as a painter with a knowledge of color science in this work, which was incomplete at the time of his death in 1927.  He worked on this book for 15 years, incorporating information on the history of painting practice, aesthetic theory, and color science and perception.  The writing is sometimes awkward and obscure, and there have been many advances in the study of color since this book was written, however it may interest those seeking a historical perspective.


122. Swindler, Mary Hamilton.  Ancient Painting: From the Earliest Times to the Period of Christian Art.  New Haven, Connecticut:  Yale University Press, 1929. 488 pp.  Index, bibl., glossary, endnotes/footnotes, B/W illus., color illus.

    This survey of ancient civilizations and their painting is arranged chronologically, beginning with the work of the Egyptians and concluding with Roman painting.  Swindler considers color throughout the text as it relates to specific paintings and periods.  The final chapter on the technical methods and pigments may be useful to those who study palettes used in ancient painting.


123. Thomas, Anne Wall.  Colors from the Earth.  The Artist's Guide to Collecting, Preparing and Using Them. New York:  Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1980.  96 pp. index, bibl. glossary.  B/W illus., color illus.  ISBN 0442257864.

    In addition to giving general information on the nature and use of earth pigments, the author explains the principles involved and gives specific methods for making oil paints, watercolors, encaustic, crayons, chalks, pastels and other media in the studio or classroom, using both professional materials and adapting ordinary household products.  She presents a convincing case for making one's own art materials, not the least of these is the safety of earth pigments which do not create health hazards in the studio environment.  While earth pigments are not toxic, pigments containing lead and other toxic metals are dangerous.  She discusses other hazardous materials found in the art studio or classroom, including solvents in frequent use.  A special feature is the concise survey of the historic use of earth colors by artists in the West and in the Orient by artists from cave painters onward.  This is a highly informative and well researched work.


124. Thompson, Daniel V.  The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting. New York:  Dover, 1956.  239 pp.  Index, B/W illus.

    Thompson explains materials, techniques, and processes used by medieval painters and discusses grounds, binders, pigments, and metals used in painting.  This is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the achievements of medieval painters and the history of color usage.


125. Walch, Margaret S. Color Source Book. New York:  Scribner, 1979. 103 pp.  B/W illus., color illus.  ISBN 0-684-16134-6.

    This is an excellent resource for anyone interested in a survey of historic color palettes.  Developed for American Fabrics, the 46 palettes included are inspired by artifacts and works of art from various cultures and ethnic groups from ancient times to the 1970s, and represent fine arts, decorative arts, folk art, tapestries, masks, manuscripts, and pottery.  The color chips are of very good quality, with a brief informational statement before each set.  The author does not thoroughly explain her methodology or rationale for selecting the colors so it can’t be said with certainty whether the palettes are based on single examples or syntheses of many examples.  Some of these palettes appear in the “Sources of Historic Colors” section of The Color Compendium by Augustine Hope and Margaret Walch published in 1990.


126. Wehlte, Kurt.   The Materials & Techniques of Painting. Translated by Ursus Dix.  New York:  Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1982.  672 pp.  Index, B/W illus. ISBN 0-442-29162-0.

    Comprehensive coverage of the materials and techniques used for both historic and modern wall and easel painting makes this an authoritative resource for anyone who paints or studies painting.  Especially useful to the color researcher is a 100-page section that lists pigments and identifies their chemical composition, history, permanence, toxicity, and other important characteristics.  A concise discussion of color, located in an appendix, includes an explanation of additive and subtractive color, color theory, and color harmonies, with an emphasis on the needs of the artist.  The excellent color plates that  illustrate the 1975 German edition, were omitted from this paperback English edition, limiting its usefulness.  The reader is advised to consult the German edition to see to the excellent color plates to supplement use of the English edition of this unusually comprehensive book.


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