Documentary research into English artists’ manuals of 1800–1900 has been carried out to shed light on available materials and recommended practices for painting in the nineteenth century. Knowledge of typical practices and the use of new materials is as important as knowledge of their first date of availability. Adulteration of colours and substitution of pigments was of concern to many artists throughout the nineteenth century. In the later part of the century the contents of tube paints also concerned them. This paper discusses such topics in the light of analyses of two colour books, one for Winsor and Newton oil paints (c1900) and one for Roberson's watercolours (c1887), as well as tube colours applied to palettes by J A M Whistler. A study of a few samples from mid to later nineteenth‐century paintings provides evidence that some colour mixtures were supplied by the colourman, not mixed by the artist.
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