The World of Green

12x12 oil on panel

The World of Green
Green, what would we do without this color?  Its nature is unstable, and long ago, green has turned to a dull, dark brown color in the backgrounds, clothing, and trees of paintings that we love and admire today in museums.  We have come a long way in correcting its temperamental properties and learning to extract and mix the exact color green we desire.  Below is a brief history of each green that I have found in my research beginning with the earliest bright green available.

Is a copper ore deposit associated in nature to Azurite.  The earliest bright green available, and was first used in Egypt and China.  Egyptians used this as eye paint even before the first Egyptian dynasty.  In Western China, it is found in many paintings from the ninth and tenth centuries.  It was popular in Europe during the Renaissance and by 1800 was replaced by synthetic green pigments.

Dates back to the early Greeks and is the color used on the copper roofs of many cathedrals, churches, and basilicas.  It is a blue-green acetate of copper and was the only green available in this period of time.  It was made by treating copper sheets with the vapors of vinegar, wine, or urine and scraping  the resultant corroded crust.  Placing copper in ammonia will cause it to turn blue.  Adding a few drops of acetic acid (vinegar) precipitates a light cyan-green salt.  This is one of the unstable greens I talked about in the first paragraph.  The gases of the atmosphere would cause it to blacken. It was incompatible with other pigments and susceptible to moisture with rapid deterioration. The modern name we give this color is viridian.  

The most poisonous of colors and my favorite green, was developed in 1808, and produced commercially in Germany in 1814.   It was so poisonous that it caused many artists sickness and even death.  It also darkened when exposed to air and metals and was not compatible with other pigments. Turns black when heated and smells of garlic.

Used more as a dye or painting manuscript, it was made from the juice of Iris flowers.  Iris flowers were blue and when crushed and mixed with Alum, a beautiful transparent green was created.  Iris green was the main rival to Sap green.

A versatile color that was made from Buckthorn berries and cultivated in Europe since the Roman times.  The ripe berries when mixed with Alum made Sap green.  Like all oil paint during the medieval time, it was kept in animal bladders and had a consistency similar to syrup.  Its previous name was bladder green.  Not sure I would have been a painter if I had to open an animal bladder to get my paint.  Glad I live in the 21st century.

A dull, transparent green found in many early works in India and Italy.  This color came from deposits of volcanic celadonite and/or a mineral of sedimentary origin (green clay) which has been exhausted and was also known to be called Green Earth. Even though its physical properties were jelly-like and unpleasant to work with, It became popular as an underpainting for skin tones that was used by Michelangelo and other artists as early as the 11th century.  Other common uses for Terre Verte were priming wood panels, tinting parchment and as a base color for fresco work and a bole for gilding.  Today, we can mix Pthalo Green and Raw Umber or Chromium Oxide green, Raw Umber and a black to create the color Terre Verte.

A neutral, delicate blue-green introduced in 1835 was very popular and fashionable.  The pigment comes from Oxides of cobalt and zinc. However, due to the cost, lack of coverage, and poor body its popularity declined.  It is easily duplicated on the palette and cobalt greens of today are nowhere near the pigment of long ago.  

 I have a conflicting report on this, Gamblin, a company who make my favorite oil plaint says it is an undervalued cool green with moderate mass tone and very muted tint. No combination of blue and yellow will yield this unusual color. And it makes valuable grays.  Will research more.

Another green pigment that became available in the late 19th century.  A bright, cool, transparent blue-green color that is an excellent all around colorant.  First synthesized and patented by Guignet of Paris in 1859,  the nontoxic viridian replaced Verdigris and Emerald green as a glazing color. The popularity of this green led some to believe that it would replace all other greens both ancient and modern. But it did replace Verdigris and Emerald green by the turn of the 20th century.  It is lightfast and compatible with all other pigments and is unaffected by diluents such as acids and alkalis. 

Introduced in 1862, this pigment has a cool, muted, earthy tone with reliable permanence.  It is an opaque dull yellow to mid green that has a nice coverage and is lightfast.  It has a high tint strength and is unaffected by light, acids, alkalis or heat.   Its pigment is made of Anhydrous chromium sesquioxide.  It can be made my mixing Cadmium yellow light and Ultramarine blue.

A dull, brownish earthy yellow green made of Iron oxide, Arylide yellow, Copper Phthalocyanine.

A most beautiful vibrant blue-green produced by the further processing of Phthalocyanine Blue.  First manufactured in 1927, it has a high tinting strength with extreme transparency and will quickly dominate your painting if used in heavy quantity.  It is a wonderful lightfast glazing color that resembles Viridian but is more intense and slightly darker. This pigment is made of Chlorinated copper Phthalocyanine. There is a warm version made and it is PHTHALO EMERALD with a yellow green shade instead of blue-green.  It is made by adding bromated copper to the Chlorinated copper.

My resources are website and the Wilcox School of color.


Popular posts from this blog

"Noah's Ark Mural"