The materials of J.M.W. Turner: pigments - Tate Research Repository
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Journal article

The materials of J.M.W. Turner: pigments

1993

Abstract

Analyses of pigments from palettes used by J.M.W. Turner (active c.1792–c.1850) by means of microscopy, microchemical analysis, thin-layer chromatography, energy-dispersive X-ray analysis, X-ray diffraction and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy are given. The occurrence of pigments in Turner's dated oil paintings and watercolours is also given, arranged by five-year periods. These findings are discussed in the context of published analyses of pigments from the first half of the nineteenth century. Turner used cobalt blue, emerald green, viridian, orange vermilion, barium chromate, chrome yellow, chrome orange and chrome scarlet within a few years of their known dates of discovery. It has become clear that Turner was using, or at least experimenting with, practically all the pigments known to be available at that time. In a few cases, in the light of these results, ideas on the availability of pigments to English artists have been revised backwards to the first known date of manufacture. Turner also possessed and used a wide range of red and yellow organic pigments, but few organic greens. The dyestuff extracted from Rubia tinctorum L. madder on an aluminiumcontaining substrate can be distinguished from the same madder on different substrates by its strong pink fluorescence in both ultraviolet and green light. The other red organic pigments (a second madder, brasilwood and cochineal dyestuffs on a range of substrates containing aluminium, copper, iron, aluminium/copper and clays) show negligible fluorescence. The red organic pigments were used in oil medium as well as watercolour, the yellows only in watercolour medium.

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