Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Monet’s Palette

This article was first published in my newsletter "Notes From My French Easel" – December 2008. Follow the link to subscribe to the newsletter.


At the "Monet, impressionist eye" exhibition at the Musée Marmottan
in Paris, one of the displays was about the colours Monet used. Here are two quotes the curator for the exhibition selected on the topic :

« The major point is to know how to use colours for which the selection is only a matter of habits. In short, I am using Silver White, Cadmium Yellow, Vermilion, Dark Madder, Cobalt Blue, Emerald green and that’s it. » (Letter from Monet to G. Durand-Ruel – Giverny, 3 July 1905)

« Claude Monet, apart from a period when he bought colours from a shop in Laval Street – today named Victor Massé – never had other provider than us (…). His palette had (…) Silver White, Light Cobalt Purple, Emerald Green, Extra-fine ultramarine. Sometime – occasionally – some Vermilion. Then a trinity of Cadmium : Light, Dark, Citrus. I also sell to him a Citrus Yellow Ultramarine, since a few years. » (Tabarant, « Couleurs » in Le Bulletin de la Vie Artisitique, 15 July 1923, pages 287-290)




La Gare Saint-Lazare de Claude Monet – Source Wikimedia


One of the exhibits was a reconstruction of Monet’s palette over time, put together by Claude Yvel (they are not a perfect match with the quotes above). Here are the different pigments the artist used at different times of his career according to Claude Yvel:

1870

  • Flake White
  • Naples Yellow
  • Chrome Yellow
  • Red Ochre
  • Yellow Lake
  • Emerald Green
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Rose Madder Lake (Laque de Garance)
  • Vermilion Red
  • Burst Sienna
  • Ivory Black

1884

  • Flake White
  • Cadmium Yellow
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Rose Madder Lake (Laque de Garance)
  • Vermilion Red
  • Yellow Lake
  • Emerald Green
  • Milori Green

1919

  • Zinc White
  • Cadmium Yellow
  • Chrome Yellow
  • Cadmium Orange
  • Vermilion Red
  • Rose Madder Lake (Laque de Garance)
  • Cobalt Purple
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Guimet Ultramarine
  • Emerald Green

I like, as an exercise, to study a painting and try to figure out the palette used by the artist.





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