Wednesday, May 6, 2009

James Perry Wilson

James Perry Wilson, painter of the illusionistic diorama backdrops for the American Museum of Natural History in New York:

According to his assistant, Ruth Morrill, Wilson used the following nine colors, along with Permalba white.

Ultramarine blue
Cobalt blue
Windsor blue
Cadmium yellow pale
Cadmium yellow deep
Yellow Ochre
Indian red
Cadmium scarlet
Alizarin crimson

“He could make anything he wanted from those colors,” Ruth Morrill said. He did not use black and only rarely used browns. He regularly premixed graduated tints of each of the primaries on his palette before commencing to paint.

According to one of Wilson’s letters, the entire distance of the Connecticut shoreline diorama (above) was painted with ultramarine, light red and yellow ochre. “It is astonishing what variety you can get with these three,” he wrote, “especially since both the red and the yellow are rather subdued colors. I recommend your experimenting to see what you can do with just these three. They are bound to impart a mellow quality to the greens, which is a good thing.”

Friday, May 1, 2009

Simulated Traditional Academic’s Palette
2006 re-creation of early 1800s palette
Exhibited in Revolution in Paint

With date of invention or earliest known use as artists’ paint

  1. Lead white, ancient Greece
  2. Naples yellow*, ancient Egypt
  3. Indian yellow, 16th century
  4. Yellow ochre, prehistoric
  5. Red ochre, prehistoric
  6. Vermilion, medieval
  7. Rose madder, ancient Egypt
  8. Carmine*, medieval
  9. Burnt sienna, Early Renaissance
  10. Brown madder*, 18th century
  11. Bitumen, medieval
  12. Cassel earth, 16th century
  13. Ivory black, prehistoric
  14. Ultramarine blue, natural, medieval
  15. Prussian blue, 1710

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