Saturday, July 20, 2013

Molly and Clare's Opening and Obsolete Pigments Part 1

Artists Jack Collins with Molly Murphy 

Last night we saw the  new works by Molly Murphy and Clare Doveton at their opening reception at Landmark, Both artists had dramatic landscapes, many with vast skies.  Here are some pics from last night:

Artist Clare Doveton

Art hanging at Landmark


 Obsolete Pigments

This section of today's post includes a history lesson on paints and pigments that are no longer used by artists because the contents are hard to come by or hazardous.  The information is geared toward the nerdy folks we know who can't get enough of facts and useless knowledge. We are reproducing content and images found on the online blog Hyperallergic,

1. Mayan Blue 
On murals, pottery, even possibly painted on the hapless bodies offered as human sacrifices, a sky-blue color has been found in artifacts of the Maya and Aztec. It disappeared around colonial times in Central America, just like the pre-Columbian civilizations themselves. Known as Maya Blue, it’s long been recognized as a mix of a natural clay and a dye from the indigo plant, but how it was so durable in not being subject to fading or even the deterioration of solvents and acids has been a mystery. Earlier this year, however, some chemists announced they may have found the secret in careful variations in the preparation temperatures. Read the chemists' findings here:

Burial Shroud of Charlemagne (early 9th century), made of Byzantine silk colored with Tyrian Purple 

2. Tyrian Purple
The most prized, prestigious pigment of the ancient world was actually made from a rather slimy source: a predatory snail. Tyrian Purple got its name from the best of the marine shellfish used to make the pigment being found off the shore of Phoenicia’s Tyre, according to Pigment Compendium, a dictionary and history of pigments. Not only was it a properly royal color of rich, slightly red purple, it was said to get even more beautiful and brighter when exposed to the sun and the elements. Yet since you needed a whole pile of snails to have enough mucous secretions to make it, it was very expensive, and eventually disappeared.

White Lead in Johannes Vermeer’s “The Glass of Wine” (1658), oil on canvas (via WikiPaintings)

3. White Lead
The luminosity of classical European oil paintings was due in large part to white lead, a pigment of lead carbonate and sulfate. Artists like Vermeer used it to create a special kind of light that radiated from the canvas, the traces of which we can see in its grainy texture. Unfortunately, its striking brightness was rather poisonous. Yet as Applied Polymer Science  explains about the lead paint: “Toxicity was recognized, but accepted.” It’s since been largely replaced by Titanium White, a less hazardous, although not as structurally strong, pigment, yet some artists still seek out the White Lead for its believed superior color and permanence, even if it is more difficult to find and still toxic.

Lapis Lazuli used in a detail of “The Ascension,” attributed to Jacopo di Cione (1371)
(via THe National Gallery, London)

4. Lapis Lazuli
Widely believed to be the most expensive pigment ever created, more pricey than even its weight in gold, the Lapis Lazuli pigment was made from grinding up Lapis Lazuli semi-precious stones. Its use goes back to the 6th century in Afghanistan, but its popularity really took off with wealthy Renaissance patrons who wanted the stunning blue on the robes of Mary and Jesus in religious paintings. The “ultra marine” color, as it was also known, largely disappeared as it was so incredibly expensive and required quarries to collect the stones. However, you can actually buy it in New York City at the Kremer Pigmente store for $360 for five grams.

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