14 October 2016

[art] Fugitive Colors of the Past

There's a rubric in art I like: fugitive colors. They're colors that get away from you, over time. Alizarin crimson is a notorious fugitive.

Basically what's going on here is a factor of the way pigments interact with sunlight. Colors, quite simply, bleach out and fade over time in paintings. Reds are the hardest to keep in place, it seems, and alizarin crimson is about the worst. You'll know about a color's fugitiveness by looking on the package: typically, there's a specification for permanence on any given tube of acrylic, oil, or watercolor or pan of watercolor, and the higher the permanence, the more likely that color's going to be standing by you over time after you create your work.

There are some colors that are actually no longer with us; they've truly escaped us. There's a variety of reasons for this, usually having to do with something about the materials; too expensive, too poisonous, or too fictional. There's a luminous quality to white lead, for example, but you make a habit of using it (providing you can actually get it) and you'll pay with a bit of your health. The colors arsenic can enable add to the artistic atmosphere, but the stuff it releases won't add anything you want to your breathable atmosphere. And things like that.

Here at a blog called Hyperallerigic, blogger Allison Meier recounts the stories of a handful of pigments that have completely escaped to the past, never to return: White lead, lapis lazuli, even (ha!) mummy brown, made with real mummy, as the legend has it.

The article can be read by pointing yourself at http://hyperallergic.com/74661/the-colorful-stories-of-5-obsolete-art-pigments/.

No comments: