Artist's Palettes & Colour Mixing - John Constable

John Constable (1776 - 1837)

English landscape painter. In 1852, Delacroix recollected that ‘Constable said that the superiority of the green he uses for his meadows derives from the fact that it is composed of a multitude of different greens’. Such greens were often obtained from a mixture of Yellow Ochre with either Prussian Blue or Cobalt Blue. Constable mixed his colours to match atmospheric effects of the changing light in the open air. He used white flecks to catch the flickering light raking across trees and foliage, and objected to the conventional use of earth-colours in contemporary landscapes. Dashes of vivid red are often contrasted with predominant, foliage greens. When told by Sir George Beaumont that a ‘good picture, like a good fiddle, is always brown, and should always include a brown tree’, he laid a fiddle on the lawn to show the grass was far from the colour of varnished wood. His novel approach to colour in landscape meant that he did not want to ‘seek the truth at second best’, that is, by copying other paintings. Later French landscape painters valued his attitude to colour, and some even recognised him as the ‘father of the Impressionists’. Because of the intensity of some of his greens, it was thought by some that he was in some degree colour blind. His palette of about 1836 is preserved in the Tate Gallery, London.

 

 

                     

John Constable’s palette (about 1836): Flake White (White Lead), Chrome Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Vermilion, Madder, Emerald Green, green mixture (Yellow Ochre and Prussian Blue mixed), Cobalt Blue, Prussian Blue, [?] Lamp Black.

 

Copyright © 2004 Don Pavey & Roy Osborne.

 

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