Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sargent's palette

images from

Here is another example of a painting that I believe could have been done with the limited red, yellow ocher and black palette I was describing last night. Passages that look blue in the painting below may well be ivory black. If a painting is couched in a warm enough key, black will appear blue. This was a common trick among Dutch painters before an affordable blue was available. The skies in as Jan Van Goyen are actually black based rather than made with a blue pigment. Sargent was also fond of Velazquez who used a lot of black.

Timothy Parks posted this list of Sargents pigments from a period source in last nights comments. Thank you. I have seen similar lists before but this seems both believable and typical. It is very similar to the palette I was taught when I was a student in Boston. I have added some explanations to the list.

Blanc d'Argent, (flake lead)

Chromes (Pale and Orange) (Chrome yellows were lead based . They were totally replaced by the more brilliant and permanent cadmium colors.)

Rose Madder (fragile and extremely expensive relative of alizarin, made from the root of the madder plant. Softer and more roseate in color than alizarin.

Cobalt Blue

French Ultramarine (synthetic ultramarine as opposed to lapis, the highly expensive original ultramarine had replaced long before Sargent's time).


Transparent Golden Ochre ( I expect this is a synthetic version of iron oxide, sometimes called mars yellow. This is the yellow in the paintings I have been describing)

Chinese Vermilion ( made first from cinnabar, a rare ore and then in the lab, it is mercuric sulphide. Violently poisonous, it is difficult to find, expensive to purchase and dangerous to use. A lovely soft crimson red it has been replaced somewhat effectively with cadmium red. I was taught to paint with this color.)

Burnt Sienna

Raw Umber

Ivory Black

Peach Black ( I believe this would be a lamp black)

Cobalt Violet (an expensive but lovely color. I like this one and use it a lot)

Venetian Red ( an iron oxide red, probably a synthetic version)

Here is a portrait the majority of which could have been painted with the three color palette. I think that he sometimes worked in this palette and when the painting was nearly realized he accented it with a few accents of other colors from his palette.

Announcing a three day workshop to be held in Charleston, South Carolina. I am going to be down there painting for the Ella Walton Richardson gallery again and for the first time I will offer a workshop in conjunction with my visit. It will be fun to meet those of you who read this blog from the low country. Charleston is surrounded by marshes and sand beaches and has nice jungle like woods with palmettos and Spanish moss. As usual the workshop is open to all levels of experience and will run from Saturday, December 11 until Monday the 13th. I will teach outside and will demonstrate in the morning and then run from easel to easel teaching for the afternoon. I can save you years of screwing around learning to paint outside. We will have a great time painting in the unique environment along the coast.
Here is the link to sign up. Class size is limited to 10 and given the short notice on this one might be very small indeed.


Unknown said...

This is such great material, Stape.
Loving it. Spent about an hour last night on ARC just browsing through the Sargent gallery. Inspired by yesterday's post on limited palette, I decided to try this during today's portrait group session. It was the most effective painting I've managed to do so far, and though I've used this paletter for landscapes, it was still very interesting to apply it to portraiture. I was especially amazed at the range of temperatures available using these few colors.

Mary Byrom said...

Great string of posts Stapleton. Just catching up. I have been hooked on a limited palette for a long time. Started with a big fat prismatic palette and found I like the leaner much more. It is very elegant in its perfect harmony and understatement. And can't believe Seago like W&N Indigo - it was my favorite color for about 10 years. I used it in every painting I made!

Anonymous said...

great article. definately going to try the cobalt violet... somewhere.
best of luck with the painting and workshop. i would love to come but am soooo far away:(

billspaintingmn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
barbara b. land of boz said...

Thanks for the recent posts on Sargent. That man could do so much with so little......

The colors are beautiful here as I'm sure they are there.

As for the workshop, show no mercy and work them hard. They truly will thank you later.

Keep on keeping on Stape!! said...

Stapleton, I'm visiting the kid ( whois now a guy) that I used to babysit for. He is in Charleston so I'll be there from Dec.18th till the Christmas eve. Will I get to see your exhibit there?

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have been doing the same thing with some figure painting myself.It really does simplify the problem, which I need.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I think you are the only other person I know that has used indigo. I am not using it now, but I haul it out now and then, it is great for stormy skies.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I think for the money, Gamblin's is a good buy and of adequate quality. Cobalt Violet is an EXPENSIVE toy.

Stapleton Kearns said...

My wife chided me for that, so did my visiting mother in law. They thought it was vulgar,. I agreed and left it in.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I will work them hard, but in this workshop they go home at night so I can't ride on their backs 14 hours a day. Snowcamp is great for that.I am looking forward to Rolling Fork again this spring. It is good for driving em hard.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I am sure there will be some new work. It all depends on how much I get made while I am down there.

billspaintingmn said...

I thought we were clowning around Stape! I"m sorry!

I will think twice before I make any commments. I apologize to your wife, mother in law and you.
I also apologize to the readers that may have beeen affended by this gross remark.