Sunday, March 28, 2010

Vermeer’s Pigments

Artists didn’t have hundreds of available pigments, as we do today. Paint samples scraped from the edges of Vermeer’s artwork show that he commonly used just seven pigments:

1. white lead, 2. yellow ochre, 3. vermillion, 4. red madder, 5, green earth, 6. raw umber and 7. ivory black.

In total, he may have used as many as seventeen, though many of them were rarely empoyed:
charcoal black
green earth
ivory black
lead white
lead-tin yellow
madder lake
red ocher
yellow ocher

The source for this information is an excellent website called Essential Vermeer. Thanks Walt Morton!


Rich Adams said...

I'm struck by the lack of ultramarine on his standard palette. After thinking about it, however, did he paint a lot of skies? It's obvious that he used it in some of his paintings for dresses and the like, but that's an interesting challenge to not rely on blue so heavily.

Catherine said...

Ha, I really like that website - it was of great help when I had to give a presentation on Vermeer for my painting class.

In reply to Rich Adams, (using information gained largely from the aforementioned site) ...Vermeer did use an unusually large amount of ultramarine. That is, unusual for his day. Natural ultramarine is a pigment that was costly and difficult to prepare. The ultramarine commonly used today is synthetic. There is a page on Essential Vermeer specifically concerning his use of ultramarine...:
And also:

Anton von Werner (1843 - 1915) said...

Thx for the link. Its the best single-artist website i have ever seen. Great.

Anonymous said...

The Essential Vermeer site is really a great ressource. The guy who made it, Jonathan Jansson, is also worth a check as an artist in his own right. He has made a number of quite fascinating paintings of modern subjects in a Vermeer-like style:

Gene Snyder said...

Great post and link!!! Normally, the internet can be such a time-suck, but this Vermeer site is an informative resource. Thanks again Jim.

My Pen Name said...

i agree its the best single artist website out there. if only there were one for :
Van Dyck
Well I know html, I suppose I could get busy :)
I like jonathan janson interiors..but his landscapes look like tinted photographs

True about ultramarine - it was usually preserved for the Virgin Mary's robe in religious paintings - not used for skies which can easily be done with the right sort of ivory black and some other colors

jeff said...

Some blues of Vermeer's day: Azurite, Lapis Lazuli, Smalt and Blue Ocher. That is a great site I've had it bookmarked for ages.

For those interested Natural Pigments sells all of the above blues, Azurite is only available in pigment.

Rachel M. Brenner-Manis said...

When he could afford , he must have used Ground lapiz-lazuli.