Newsletter Number Two: Thoughts on Permanent Reds. Fall 2007


Artists and conservators have always been aware that some colors fade. Throughout art history, painters usually take advantage of alternative more lightfast colorants as they became available. However, one less than lightfast pigment continues its hold on the 21st century artistic imagination: Alizarin Crimson. Originally, the color was extracted from the madder root.

Alizarin MadderThen during the Industrial Revolution, a dye was synthesized that was chemically similar to madder root. Since 1868, many alternative, much more lightfast pigments have become available. Still Alizarin Crimson continues to be among the top five best-selling colors in any brand of artists’ materials. Painters choose it because Alizarin has a beautiful cool red transparency, and has the sexiest name of any color on the palette, especially when compared to Quinacridone Red.

For two decades I helped painters adjust their palettes away from Alizarin, but many won’t make a switch. But I started having success after I developed Alizarin Permanent as a lightfast alternative. This was first developed as an artist’s color and included in the Conservation Colors palette during the years of testing in the 90’s.

Alizarin Permanent is made from highly stable colors: Quinacridone Red, Ultramarine Blue and Perylene Red. I formulated this mixture to be as close a match as possible to Alizarin Crimson. Because Alizarin Permanent is made from three pigments, I decided to balance the masstone, transparency and tint of this color rather than match perfectly only one aspect of the single pigment Alizarin Crimson.Alizarin Crimson or Rose Madder with Alizarin Permanent

You may find that in some situations you can’t match exactly the effects of Alizarin Crimson or Rose Madder with Alizarin Permanent. One common difficulty is matching the chroma of Alizarin’s transparency.

In this case, you can achieve the correct effect by turning to Quinacridone Red, Alizarin’s best replacement. Quinacridone Red’s transparency will have higher chroma. By graying Quinacridone Red with a small amount of a transparent green or black, you can make a good match.

Quinacridone Red Perylene Red

Next year we will be adding Perylene Red under another great name, Dragon’s Blood.

This will be a useful addition to the palette for restoring colors based on both Alizarin Crimson and Rose Madder. Also, I am thinking of adding:

Manganese Blue: barium manganate. Genuine Manganese Blue pigment has not been available since 1989. I have been hording a small amount of pigment since then. I have decided that the best use for this color is to make a conservation color out of it and replace Manganese Blue Hue.

Chromatic Black: a very transparent black made from complementary colors.

Greenish Umber: a very cool umber in addition to the Raw Umber already on the palette.

Chrome Titanate: recommended as a perfect color to underpaint sky colors in classical painting that has fly spotting. It has a beautiful mid chroma orange color

Transparent Brown Oxide: a valuable addition to GC Colors’ wonderful collection of transparent earth colors.

Please contact me if you have any colors you would like to add to the list of potential additions to the palette.

Robert Gamblin signature
Fall 2007

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