Notebook, 1993-


Historical Perspective

Coloring materials from animal, vegetable, and mineral sources to be used for personal adornment, for decorating tools, weapons,and utensils, and for making pictures were sught by man as early as remote prehistoric times. Most easily procurable were vegetable colors, flowers, seeds, berries, nuts, bark, wood, and roots of plants. Most of these were fugitive and they soon faded when exposed to sunlight. There were notable exceptions, however, like the materials obtained from the madder root, the woad plant, or from the lac insect which, under conditons not too unfavorable, sometimes lasted for centuries. Only slightly less available were the colored earths which included the yellow, red, and brown ochres and clays that abound on the earth's surface in sedementary deposits. Carbon black in the form of soot, charcoal, and even charred bones, could have been found about the most primitive hearth. Such coloring materals as these were known and used as early as there are archaeological criteria. Somewhat less readily availale than the earths were the colored minerals of the heavy metals, but, even so, such brightly colord minerals as cinnabar, orpiment, realgar . . . . [p. 139] [Gettens, Rutherford J., [Chemist, Department of Conservation, and Fellow for Technical Research, Fogg Museum of Art/1944 and Head Curator, Freer Gallery Laboratory, Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC./1966] and George L. Stout, [Lecturer on Fine Arts and Head of the Department of Conservation, Fogg Museum of Art/1942 and Director, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, Massachusetts/1966.] Painting Materials, A Short Encyclopaedia. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1942. 1966. ]

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The history of pigments is well documented; studies have been made of all the descriptions from old manuscripts and books dating back to the earliest recorded times. Actual analyses of pigments have relics of prehistoric civilizations and from all later periods have been systematically carried out. The student of the history of painting materials will find that throughout the history of European painting down to the present day there has been a steady improvement in the quality, variety, and availability of pigments. Our present permanent pigments are superior to those of the past in all respects and are continually being improved. The current existence of fugitive and inferior pigments, which painters must avoid, is a circumstance no different from that of former times; these have existed in all ages and places, and careful painters have always had to know which ones were safest to use. [p. 25] [Mayer, Ralph. The Painter's Craft. An Introduction to Artist's Methods and Materials. Revised and updated by Steven Sheehan, Director of the Ralph Mayer Center, Yale University School of Art. New York: Penquin Group. 1948. 1991.]



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