PIGMENTS PRESENT:
colors currently available to the working artist

yellows | reds | violets | blues | greens | browns
blacks | whites

Technical Notes

The colors below include their Color Index Number which includes a pigment identification, such as pigment yellow (PY) plus an international identifying number (such as 41). These numbers can help the artist to determine the actual content of a given paint from the manufacturer.

Lightfastness ratings are given in accordance with ASTM (American Society of Testing and Materials) testing criteria. However, it should be noted that the best rating, Lightfastness I, is for only 150 years under museum conditions. Therefore, artists should not be ignorant of the fact that some of these pigments may not last under non-museum conditions, in tints with white, or, even under the best of circumstances, beyond the 150 year mark. The artist must also be aware that some pigments may be reactive when mixed.

Oil absorption rates are given by general category; they are based upon the ratio of pigment (by weight) to oil (by weight) needed to form a stiff paste. As a general rule, high-oil paints should be placed over low-oil paints; painting medium can be used to increase the oil content of a paint film for overpainting. The listings of oil film and toxicity should speak for themselves.


YELLOWS:

Naples Yellow: (Cennini's "giallorino") Lead Antimoniate (PY 41). Made by calcining litharge with antimony trioxide, it is a heavy, semiopaque yellow that can be produced in about six shades, from greenish yellow to a comparatively pinkish orange yellow. The true pigment is infrequently sold today: Astoria Paints carries true lead antimony yellow. Made artificially since at least the fifteenth century, Cennini remarks that its tint was injured by much grinding. Similar antimony yellows have been found in Babylon tiles dating back to the fifth century B.C. It is very permanent when compared to the modern cadmiums or azo yellows. It is a useful color that has many of the characteristics of flake white, such as a rapid rate of drying and good film-forming properties. It shares the disadvantages of flake white -- that is, it is toxic (but careful use prevents harm) and sensitive to sulfur (but can be protected from atmospheric pollutants by varnish and avoidance of mixtures with reactive sulfide pigments.(see pigment chemistry page)) Past writers have warned not to mix Naples yellow with an iron palette knife as its color is believed to be affected by the metal. This lead to fears that mixtures with iron pigments would yield the same result, yet neither Church (1901) nor Doerner (1962) could find any evidence that mixture of the compound with iron pigments caused discoloration. Stockler (1838) also felt that it could be mixed with all earth and metallic pigments without fear of ill effects. It is believed that residual chlorides or other impurities on metal mixing or grinding equipment may be at fault for graying the color through formation of iron chloride or other compounds. Modern substitutes sold under the name are usually mixtures of cadmium yellow, zinc white, and ocher. These dry more slowly and have an inferior film quality with less permanence when compared to true Naples Yellow.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Very Low
Oil Film: fast drying, tough, flexible
Toxicity: highly toxic, do not ingest, do not breathe dust

Hansa Yellows: Arylide Yellows, MonoAzo yellows (PY 1, 1:1, 3, 65, 73, 74, 97, and 98) Bright yellow of the Azo pigments. First introduced as artists color in 1909. Semi-transparent colors of good tinting strength. PY 1 is being replaced with PY 73, which shares a similar hue but is of superior fade resistance. Nonetheless, monoazo pigments are of limited lightfastness when compared with other synthetic dyes, especially in tints with white where they are known to fade. Though they are used full strength in some commercial applications, the manufacturer does not recommend them for artist level permanence, especially in tints.
Lightfastness: I or II
Oil Absorption: Low to Medium
Oil Film: slow drying, medium, fairly flexible, may bleed over time
Toxicity: relatively harmless, do not breathe dust

Diarylide Yellow HR: Benzedine Yellow HR, Diazo Yellow, Disazo Yellow (PY 13, 14, 17, 83) Tinting strength is much stronger than arylide and inorganic yellows. Though slightly soluble in some organic solvents with a slight tendency to fade in tints with white, they have better solvent and migration fastness than monoazos, but poorer lightfastness and weatherfastness. Though they are used full strength in some commercial applications, the manufacturer does not recommend them for artist level permanence, especially in tints.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low to Medium
Oil Film: average to slow drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Azo Condensation Yellow 128: (PY 128) Chromophytal Yellow 8GN as produced by Ciba-Geigy doubles the molecular weight to give improved bleed properties and lightfastness. It is a bright transparent yellow that may be a more permanent alternative to Aureolin and Indian Yellow. Has no known toxic effects.
Lightfastness: NA
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: NA
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Benzimidazolone Yellows: (PY 151, 154, 156, 175) These pigments increase hydrogen bonding to give greater stability and insolubility than any other azo pigment. However, it still has poor alkali resistance, has dull tints, and may be soluble in some organic solvents. The yellow 156 is said to have good outdoor durability in both full strength and in tints, which would make it the most durable of these advanced azo pigments. Though again, the manufacturer does not guarantee permanence for fine art uses where color is intended to last for hundreds of years. A representative from Ciba has admitted that no azo dyecolor is truly permanent or stable and that all suffer from some fading and/or bleeding. Azos are best used in full chroma as glazes to replace traditional pigments of known inferior lightfastness, such as aureolin.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low to Medium
Oil Film: average, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Cadmium Yellows: Cadmium sulfide. (PY 35, 35:1, 37, 37:1) Introduced commercially in England in 1846, but it was some years before they were widely adopted because of the former scarcity of the metal. Made by roasting cadmium oxide or carbonate with sulfur, or by precipitation from solutions of cadmium salts creating bright, strong colors. Low toxic hazard below 1000 ppm. Slow drying, especially if ground in poppyseed oil. These original "C.P." or Chemically Pure cadmiums are more expensive and stronger in tinting strength, but less toxic, than the newer cadmium-barium compounds. (co-precipitated with barium sulfate) PY 37 is sometimes called Orient Yellow. Sulfides may react with lead and blacken (as lead sulfide)(see pigment chemistry page). Therefore cadmiums may be best used with Titanium and/or Zinc whites. Some reports state that copper may react with cadmiums as well, causing concern in mixing with Copper Phthalocyanine. Cadmiums may fade or chalk, especially in tints with white. This is more severe in the yellows than in the reds that contain selenium.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: average to slow drying, fairly flexible
Toxicity: toxic cadmium, do not breathe dust

Aureolin: Cobalt Yellow, Potassium cobaltinitrate. (PY 40) 1848: made by reacting acidified cobaltous nitrate with potassium nitrate. Soluble cobalt may have chronic toxic effects. Because of its transparency, it is used in oils as a bright, clear, golden yellow glazing color. It is a rapid drier and permanent in oils. It replaces Indian Yellow, Yellow Lake, Gamboge, Dutch Pink, Stil-Degrain and others.
Lightfastness: II
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: fast drying, hard, erratic
Toxicity: toxic cobalt, do not breathe dust

Nickel Titanate: Titanium yellow. (PY 53) Made by calcining antimony, nickel, and titanium oxides at high temperatures. Substitute for the less reliable Barium Chromate (lemon yellow). When painting with lead white it can replace cadmium yellow lemon without reaction (blackening) or fading. (see pigment chemistry page) Greater weatherability than cadmiums but with a duller tint.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: average to slow drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: toxic nickel, do not breathe dust

Green Gold: Nickel-azo yellow (PG 10), is a synthetic organic azomethine pigment produced by combining a metal (nickel, cobalt or iron) with an azo. Nickel-azo has a pronounced green-yellow quality. Accelerated tests indicate that its resistance to fading is high, and it is expected to join the synthetic colors of superior permanence.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low to medium
Oil Film: average drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: toxic nickel, do not breathe dust

Nickel-Azo Yellow: Yellow 4G (PY 150), the term is also applied to Green Gold (PG 10) above. A very greenish yellow of excellent lightfastness; however, may be slightly soluble in water and in some organic solvents. Creates a hard, fairly flexible paint film.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: average drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: nickel may irritate skin, do not breathe dust

Nickel-Dioxine Yellow: Dioxine-Nickel Complex (PY 153) A new generation organic pigment with excellent lightfastness. Dull tints. Tinting strength is less than the diarylides and it may be soluble in some organic solvents.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: average drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: nickel may irritate skin, do not breathe dust

Mars Yellow: Synthetic Iron Hydroxide (PY 42). Brighter, clearer, and several times stronger than ochre or sienna. Permanent with outstanding chemical and weather resistance, economical, with excellent opacity, low tinting strength and dull mass tone. Iron Oxides are said to screen UV light.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: average drying, strong, flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Yellow Ochre: Minette. Natural Hydrated Iron Oxide (PY 43) is an earth tone of yellow to orange-yellow hue. The best natural sources are said to be from France. The following information was forwarded to me by a company selling the pigment:

We represent on the North American market the last remaining quarry extracting ocher by mining in Provence, South of France and Kremer Pigmente is one of our customers buying directly from the quarry all ocher shades and other pigments.

As you know Ocher is the world oldest earth pigments that was used by Prehistoric people for cave painting and funeral rites. Not only is ocher a color, it is also a material that provides depth as much as color. Light highly contributes to the vividness of this palette of shades which is a symphony of colors ranging from pale yellow through the orange range to an intense red.

Founded in 1901, "La Société des Ocres de France" is now the only remaining European company operating the ocher deposits in the quarries of Gargas and Rustrel, nestled in a 12 mile long enclave, in the heart of the Luberon Mountains, the ocher country. It's the only quarry supplying all European distributors and retailers, as well as an international clientele, with natural pigments. Please visit them at: www.ocres-de-france.com

They manufacture several natural earth tone pigments, mineral pigments as well as traditional lime plasters and lime wash that are used in the construction industry as well as by artist. Ocher and earth tones are truly the colors of Provence and are totally natural, non harmful and mix extremely well with all type of binders, gypsum, cement, lime, water, oil etc.

You are very welcome to browse our web site to collect additional information: www.nmsdistribution.us and to contact us if you would need any additional information.

Jean-Michel Steber
NMS Distribution
4935 E Valley Vista Lane
Paradise Valley, AZ 85253 USA

Yellow Ochres are opaque. Iron Oxides are said to screen UV light.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: average to slow drying, tough, flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, may contain toxic manganese: do not breathe dust

Transparent Gold Ochre: is refined from a rather rare species of Ochre (PY 43). It is permanent, and suitable for all painting uses. Same characteristics as above.

Anthraquinone Yellows: Anthrapyrimidine yellow and Flavanthrone yellow. (PY 108, 112 (or 24) ) Transparent pigments of excellent lightfastness and weatherfastness, combined with good solvent and migration resistance. But Flavanthrone darkens considerably upon exposure to light and weather in full shades and deep shades, though it is not noticable in very light tints.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: average drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Isoindolinone Yellows: (PY 109,110) High-performance pigments of excellent brightness and tinting strength, with comparatively good light- and weatherfastness, solvent and migration resistance. These heterocyclic azomethines produce greenish to reddish yellow hues. However, the paint chemist at Daniel Smith Art Supplies claims that the colors are of odd hues and do not mix well.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low to medium
Oil Film: average drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Yellows to Avoid
or that are No Longer Available
Chrome Yellow
(Paris Yellow) and Orange (turns dark and greenish)
Indian Yellow (originally the urine of cows fed on mango leaves, now synthetic analine colors that fade)
Yellow Lake (nonstandard name for transparent yellows - replace with Cobalt/Aureolin or Hansa/Azo yellows)
Gamboge (a native yellow gum from Thailand. Transparent. Not a true pigment color. Not reliably permanent. In use from medieval times to the nineteenth century. Replace with cobalt yellow.)
Dutch Pink (a fugitive yellow lake made from buckthorn - Avignon or Persian - berries; never intended to be used for permanent painting. Made for decorative purposes, its other names are brown pink, English pink, and stil-de-grain.)
Zinc Yellow (Zinc chromate. A pale, semiopaque yellow with a greenish tone. Not permanent, nearly obsolete, rare. Rather poisonous. Somewhat soluble in water; therefore generally considered to be not so good as barium yellow for artists' use. Sometimes mixed with blues to form so-called Permanent Greens. Soluble chromate may cause skin cancer.)
Barium Yellow (Barium chromate. An obsolete pale sulfur-colored yellow with a greenish tone. In appearance like Zinc yellow reduced with about 75 percent of white pigment. Danger due to barium poisoning.)
Lead Chromate (Chrome yellow, chrome lemon, Leipzig yellow. Opaque yellows precipitated from solutions of sodium or potassium dichromate and lead salts. The color depends on the lead salts used. Tend to darken on exposure to industrial atmospheres (sulfur dioxides) and is therefore of questionable permanence. Danger of lead poisoning and skin cancer. Can be easily replaced with cadmium yellows when using a non-lead white.)
Turner's Yellow: Montpelier Yellow, Patent Yellow. Lead oxychloride. Obsolete. A variety of shades from bright yellow to orange were formerly made. Not permanent; turns black. Patented by James Turner, England, 1781.

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REDS:

Quinacridone Red: Permanent Rose, Permanent Magenta, Thalo Red Rose. (PR 122) A transparent organic pigment of excellent permanence, strong tinting strength and low toxicity, it is durable, lightfast, has high alkali resistance, is nonbleeding and exhibits high heat resistance. A blue red that makes wonderful pinks. A good replacement for the Red Lakes in the middle values. (Also PR 192, 207, 209) In use only since the 1960s. Quinacridone also comes in orange tones as PO 48 and 49 as well as the violet PV 19 listed below. Quinacridones are considered some of the most permanent dye-colors available.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: average drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Diketopyrrolo Pyrrole Pigments (D.P.P. Chemistry): (PR 254, 255, 264) High-quality heterocyclic pigments offering fantastic heat stability, high coloring strength and hiding power and excellent light and weather fastness in a color range from reddish yellow to bluish violet. Can be produced as transparent or opaque color by controlling particle size in manufacture. In the reds, these are considered the most stable high chroma colors available; the best replacement for Alizarin Crimson in a blue red.
Exact technical reports not available.

Naphthol Reds: Permanent Red or Crimson, Naphthol AS-TR, Naphthol Crimson, Red F4RH. (PR 9) Organic blue-red pigment created in 1921. Naphthol descriptions can be misleading as several different pigments of considerably varying lightfastness may be found under the same description. Other Naphthol Reds include Permanent Red FGR (Naphthol AS-D: pigment red 112: bright red. aka Permanent Carmine or Red), Naphthol Carbamide (pigment red 168: blue-red), and Naphthol Red AS (B.O.N. Arylide: pigment red 188: yellowish red) which is resistant to fading in Flake White. Other ASTM approved Naphthol reds include PR 5, 7, 14, 119, and 170. This pigment family has excellent chemical resistance but varies in its lightfastness, especially in tints, and can be soluble in some organic solvents. As a coupling component it yields such well-known pigments as Toluidine Red and Dinitroaniline Orange that have solvent resistance, migration fastness and lightfastness comparable to the monoazo yellow pigments. The above pigment reds are better suited to artistic use.
Lightfastness: I or II
Oil Absorption: Low to Medium
Oil Film: average drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Rose Madder (genuine): (NR 9) Madder Lake, Pink Madder. Natural Lake, also known as Alizarin Lake prepared by extraction of dye from madder root with alum, followed by precipitation with alkali on to an aluminum hydroxide base. The 1865 theory of the ring structure of benzene established the structure formula of chemical alizarin to be 1:2 dihydroxyanthraquinone. Alizarin Crimson was synthesized as a dyestuff in 1869. Although much stronger, this has been shown to be less lightfast than the natural product at similar tint. The term Rose Madder also refers to a grade of madder or alizarin lake very much weaker than the color sold as alizarin crimson (PR 83) or natural rose madder (NR 9).
Lightfastness: II
Oil Absorption: Medium
Oil Film: average to slow drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Alizarin Crimson: Alizarin Lake, Red, or Scarlet. (PR 83) Metal complex of alizarin (dihydroxyanthraquinone); color depends on metal salts present: aluminum = red, calcium = bluish red, iron = maroon. Alizarin Crimson is made by developing alizarin, an organic product made from anthracen - a coal tar derivative, by converting anthraquinone dye to the calcium salt in the presence of alumina hydrate and a small percentage of sulfonated castor oil. It has been considered permanent, and was the only synthetic organic pigment universally approved for artists' use from its introduction in 1869 to the late 1930's. Made in a rather limited range of shades from a rosy scarlet to a maroon, alizarins have a characteristic bluish undertone and are clear and transparent. They absorb much oil relative to other colors and are slow driers, making them best suited for glazes and overpainting. Unlike the original Madder, they can be used as a tint in white without bleeding. This synthetic dyestuff is now considered insufficiently lightfast even though it is greatly superior to the natural madder lakes which it replaces. (see Rose Madder, above). Best replaced by DPP or Quinacridone.
Lightfastness: III
Oil Absorption: Low to medium
Oil Film: slow drying, hard, brittle
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Alizarin Crimson, Golden: A variant of alizarin crimson (PR 83) in which the usual bluish undertone is absent. Preferred by some painters for flesh tones. Same characteristics as above.

Anthraquinone Red: Anthraquinoid Red. (PR 177) Chemical type anthraquinone is an intermediate synthetic dyestuff derived from the raw material anthracene. It has excellent lightfastness properties in mass tone but is only moderate in tints, though still exceeding the performance of the azos. The excellent weatherability of PR 111 allows it to be used in acrylic taillights, though this is no guarantee of long term permanence in artistic use. In polycyclic form these reds are sold as Perylene Reds running the gamut from yellowish reds to bluish reds and showing good permanence in oil. They are transparent and posses very good tinting strength. (PR 123, 149, 168, 178, 179, 190)
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: average drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Brominated Anthranthrone: Dibromoanthanthrone (PR 168) A Vat orange pigment with high transparency, very clean bright yellowish scarlet mass tone with good exterior durability that is used in the automotive industry in high grade paints. It is one of the most lightfast and weatherfast organic pigments known, even at very low pigment concentrations, making it useful in shades and mixtures despite its relatively low tinctorial strength. It is fast to alkali and plaster, allowing it to be used in fresco. It is dull in tints with low tinting strength and is slightly soluble in organic solvents. I do not know why, based upon this information, it is listed with an ASTM rating of II.
Lightfastness: II
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: average drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Thioindigoid Red: permanent red (PR 88, 198). Vat pigment with relatively clean reddish-violet color and excellent lightfastness properties. Slight bronzing in mass tone on exterior exposure and only slightly soluble in some organic solvents. Used in plastics manufacture.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: average drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Cadmium Reds: Selenium Red, Cadmium sulfoselenide. (PR 108, 113) Orange red to deep red (becomes redder the more selenide is present). Available in a Vermilion hue (PR 113) at less cost than true vermilion from cinnibar. Moderate toxicity from soluble cadmium. Lower cost but increased toxicity in forms of cadmium-lithopones which are coprecipitated with barium sulfate. (PR 108:1, 113:1) Cadmium Oranges and Cadmium-Barium Lithopone Oranges are also available with the same characteristics. (PO 20, 20:1, 23, 23:1) As with the yellows, there is concern about mixing with lead white (see pigment chemistry page) and may, to a lesser degree, bleach out in tints with other whites.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: slow drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: toxic cadmium, do not ingest, do not breathe dust

Azo Condensation Reds: (PR 144, 166) Chromophthal Red BRN and Scarlet R. Like the yellow, these are new developments from Ciba-Geigy that have no known toxic effects. Considering the superior permanence of Quinacridones and DPP reds, they should be preferred over Azos.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low to Medium
Oil Film: NA
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Benzimidazolone Red HFT: benzimidazolone maroon (PR 175) A dull yellowish red monoazo pigment of high transparency. Exceptional chemical resistance is characteristic of this pigment family: cyclic carbonamide coupling upgrades its solvent stability and provides excellent lightfastness and weatherfastness, although it is slightly soluble in some organic solvents. It does not bloom and is completely fast to overpainting. Commercially, in white reductions it does not quite satisfy the requirements of long term outdoor exposure which may signal its long term weakness as an artists' pigment. This pigment lacks the color purity and brightness that is characteristic of most organic synthetic pigments.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low to Medium
Oil Film: Average drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Isoindolin Red: (PR 260) This vermilion hued opaque orange-red is both lightfast and weatherfast in full shades, though it may darken slightly upon exposure and lose some of its gloss. However, unlike its yellow counterparts, this pigment "bleaches considerably in white reductions." Oddly, this pigment is being used by Old Holland for their Vermilion Hue.

Red Iron Oxides:
Natural Red Iron Oxides: (PR 102) Light Red (Antwerp Red), Red Ochre, Spanish Red, Persian Gulf Oxide, Pompeian Red, Prussian Red, Turkey Red. The Romans referred to it as Sinopia, sinope, or sinoper where it was used to create the red preliminary outline painted on fresco plaster before applying the intonaco. Natural Red Oxides develop into hard, fairly flexible films in oil, but are of better quality in the synthetic forms.
Synthetic Red Iron Oxides: Red Oxide (PR 101) Synthetic iron oxides are gradually replacing naturally occurring ones due to greater tinting strength and cleanness. The variation in shades and hues is due to the process of manufacture. All are very opaque, absolutely permanent and have the same general properties as the pure red oxides. Inexpensive, excellent covering power, and weather resistant. Strong absorber of ultraviolet light. Many shades, all brighter, stronger, finer, and more permanent than the native products. They replace the native iron oxides for most uses. The best-grade bluish shades are called Indian red (in its natural form the "Caput Mortuum" used by the Flemish); the yellowish shades, Light red, English red, and Venetian red (aka Terra Rosa). When mixed with white, Light Red and English Red produce salmon pinks while Indian Red forms rose pinks. Mars reds run the gammut from bright red to deep red to deep crimson and maroon. A very bluish or purplish oxide, known as Mars violet, is also made. Mars violet is dull and subdued, but when used straight or in mixtures on the average picture of low intensity it serves well to produce the majority of purple and lavender colors ordinarily required. The synthetic replacement for Vermilion (mercuric sulfide) is a mix of iron oxide and calcium sulphate (a substance harmful to the durability of oil paints) and is best replaced by other iron oxides like Indian, Light, or Mars Reds or with the Cadmiums. Persian Red was formerly natural red iron oxide, but now is synthetic red iron oxide. All iron oxides are absolutely permanent and are excellent choices for oil painting.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: average drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Vermilion: Zinnober (PR 106) from natural Cinnabar, it is chemically known as mercuric sulfide. European use of ore from Spanish mines dates from an early Greek period. Theophrastus says it was obtained from inaccessible cliffs by shooting arrows to dislodge it. Also found in relics of Assyrian and other early cultures. Natural cinnabar has been known since prehistoric times but is much inferior to the manufactured product. It is manufactured from mercury and sulfur or by reaction of sulfides and mercury or its salts. It is an opaque, pure red and is the heaviest pigment in use. Though permanent, some grades are liable to turn black; this change is a reversion to a black form of mercuric sulfide. It was commonly used by the Flemish for flesh tones. Though other colors may make better flesh tones, none were more durable than vermilion. At times mixed with yellow ochre for flesh. The best grades are made in England, France and China. It will not react with other permanent colors, including (some say) white lead. (see pigment chemistry page) Mercury is regarded as toxic and should be handled with caution. Vermilion may be replaced today with the less toxic Cadmium Red - Vermilion Hue, though this cannot exactly replace its particular hue and may have similar incompatibility with lead. (see pigment chemistry page)
Made Today as:
Orange Vermilion - Natural Cinnabar.
English Vermilion - Genuine vermilion made in England.
Chinese Vermilion - Genuine vermilion made in China.
American Vermilion - A heavy, opaque lake pigment, usually made from eosine or scarlet dye on a red lead, orange mineral, or chrome red base. Not permanent. There is great variation of behavior in different specimens. Not to be used for artists' pigment.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: average drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Reds to Avoid
It is best to avoid all lakes of Harrison Red, Lithol Red, Scarlet Lake, Geranium Lake, Para Red, and American Vermilion; all are analine lakes which fade. Also avoid Cochineal, Carmine, Lac, and Crimson Lake which are of insect origin. All are fugitive. Avoid Dragon's Blood, Logwood, and Brazil Wood which are all lakes of vegetable origin. And avoid Bole or Armenian Bole which is a red earth clay.

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VIOLETS:

Cobalt Violet: (PV 14) Red to blue violet, semi-opaque color. Cobalt Violet Light is reddish and Deep is bluish. Cobalt can have chronic toxic effects if swallowed. In mixture with poisonous arsenate or with a non-poisonous phosphate (check the label.) The best overall violets for permanence.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: fast drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: toxic cobalt, do not breathe dust

Ultramarine Violet: Ultramarine Red or Pink. (PB 15) Polysulfide of sodium alumino-silicate (complex structure). Prepared from Ultramarine Blue by heating with ammonium chloride or chlorine and hydrochloric acid. Very permanent with adequate tinting strength, but may have incompatibility with lead white. (see pigment chemistry page)
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: average drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Manganese Violet: Permanent Mauve or Violet. (PV 16) Manganese ammonium pyrophosphate. Often used as a substitute for Cobalt Violet Deep in students' grades. Manganese can have chronic toxic effects.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: fast drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: toxic manganese, do not ingest, do not breathe dust

Quinacridone Magenta: Quinacridone Violet, Permanent Magenta. (PV 19) A variant of Quinacridone Red. In use since the 1960s, this synthetic organic color is permanent and resistant to fading, to alkalies and to heat. Very permanent glaze color.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low to Medium
Oil Film: average drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Dioxazine Violet: Dioxazine Purple, Carbazole Violet. (PB 23) Transparent blue-violet that is an extremely lightfast and weatherfast compound with good to excellent solvent and migration resistance. Due to its cost, it is mainly found in highest quality artists' colors but, due to its high fastness, rapidly becoming a standard violet pigment, replacing the less fast lake pigments. Lightfastness is slightly affected in tints with white.
Lightfastness: II
Oil Absorption: Low to Medium
Oil Film: average drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Mars Violet: (PR 101) Like all mars colors, is highly permanent in all techniques. Often used by figure painters in place of Indian red, this pure iron oxide produces soft lavender effects from its muddy dull violet color. Mayer claims that this is equal to the original "caput mortuum" of the Flemish, a term also used for the redder Indian Red iron oxide.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: average drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

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BLUES:

Phthalocyanine Blue: Thalo Blue, Monastral Blue, Winsor Blue (PB 15 and 16) Transparent bright greenish blue to reddish blue, it has excellent opacity, durability and lightfastness. In addition, it is relatively nonbleeding with high chemical and alkali resistance. It is composed of a tightly bound (and thus stable) chemical structure, and is considered to represent the best combination of properties available in any pigment class. A modern replacement for Prussian Blue with which it shares a bronzing effect and, in tints with white, the more toxic Cobalts. Commercial varieties include the reddish blue alpha form, as stabilized and nonstabilized pigments; the greenish blue beta modification; and the intense reddish blue epsilon modification.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: (PB 15) average to slow drying (PB 16) rapid drying, hard, fairly flexible.
Toxicity: May contain traces of a known carcinogen, do not breathe dust

Cobalt Blue: Kings Blue, Thenard's Blue. Cobaltous aluminate. (PB 28) High temperature calcination of mixture of oxides of cobalt and aluminum. True cobalt blue has a hue like Ultramarine but with a top-tone considerably lighter and an undertone more green than violet or reddish. Cobalt, left unvarnished, will become whitened with age. But it is restored upon varnishing. (If a good varnish cannot be applied before sale, it may be best to avoid true cobalt. It can be replaced by less expensive mixtures of white and Phthalocyanine Blue sold under the name of cobalt or cobalt hue.) Leithner Blue, Leyden Blue, and Vienna Blue are varieties of cobalt blue.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: average drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: toxic, do not breathe dust

Ultramarine Blue: sometimes called Permanent Blue (PB 29) Complex polysulfide of sodium alumino-silicate. Developed in 1822 and in use since 1828, it is a synthetic equivalent of lapis lazuli, created by a fusion of kaolin, soda ash, Glauber's salt, sulfur, carbon and kieselguhr. When ground in oil, ultramarine normally has one of the worst painting consistencies of any of the pigments and tends to make paints of erratic and usually stringy nature; it is therefore much diluted with waxes and other stabilizers by the makers of colors who require all their paints to have the same buttery plasticity. However, artists who grind their own colors in pure oil find that they are able to paint with it in a stringy (long) form, especially since it is so often mixed with white or other colors that impart a more normal consistency to it. It is a beautiful pigment, which mixes easily toward the violet side of the palette. It is permanent in oil and watercolor, as is the natural material, lapis. An unfinished variation produces Ultramarine Green. Due to sulfur content it may be incompatible in mixtures with lead white.
(see pigment chemistry page)
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: average to slow drying, fairly hard, somewhat brittle
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Cerulean Blue: Cobaltous stannate. (PB 35) A semi-opaque light greenish sky-blue of very good permanence. Quick drying. True Cerulean is expensive but has great solidity and hiding power and is absolutely permanent. Sometimes replaced by mixtures using the less expensive Phthalocyanine Blue.
Cobalt chromite blue-green spinel (PB 36) is similar in hue to cerulean blue, is of outstanding chemical and light stability and is one of the more strong, clean, and bright inorganic pigments.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: average to fast drying, fairly flexible
Toxicity: toxic cobalt, do not breathe dust

Indanthrone Blue: Indanthrene Blue, Anthraquinone. (PB 60) A violet blue that could be a substitute for Indigo. Very good permanence and tinting strength to this transparent color while having minimal toxicity. It is even more weatherfast than copper phthalocyanine pigments, especially in light tints. Indanthrone blue is highly durable even in light white reductions and of high tinctorial strength, though weaker than the excessively intense epsilon phthalo blue which is of similarly reddish blue hue. PB 60 shows very good fastness to organic solvents, though its sister pigment PB 22 may bleed in some solvents. PB 60 is fast to acids and alkalies, and is heat stable up to 180 degrees Celsius. This exceptional permanence recommends it for industrial purposes with long-term exposure. Printing inks made of PB 60 are used to print banknotes.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low to medium
Oil Film: average drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Prussian Blue: Iron Blue, Milori Blue, Bronze Blue, Steel Blue. Germans call is Paris Blue. (PB 27) A strong tinting strength green-blue mineral (ferric ferrocyanide) color discovered and used only since the 18th C. It is said to fade somewhat in mixtures with white, but in general it is fairly permanent. Chinese Blue is a very high quality variety of Prussian Blue. Milory is also of high quality. The more permanent Phthalocyanine blue (PB 15, 16) can replace it today.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: average drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Blues to Avoid
Smalt, Egyptian Blue
(no longer available), Bice or Copper Carbonate, Azurite, and Indigo. All can be replaced by the more permanent blues above. Prussian blue is a blue of borderline permanence that can be replaced by Phthalo Blue.

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GREENS:

Phthalocyanine Green: Thalo Green (PG 7 and 36) Chlorinated copper phthalocyanine is a bright blue green developed in 1935 and in use since '38. Prepared by chlorination of copper phthalocyanine under catalytic conditions. A yellow shade is obtained by replacing some of the chlorine with bromine. Like Phthalocyanine Blue, it has very strong tinting strength and is very permanent with high chemical resistance and lightfastness straight or in tints.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: average to slow drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: may contain traces of a known carcinogen, do not breathe dust

Oxide of Chromium: Chromium Oxide Green, Chrome Oxide. (PG 17) Chromium sesquioxide is prepared by reduction of potassium dichromate at high temperatures. This dullish yellow green is opaque and very permanent, being the most weatherfast green pigment available. It makes an excellent green for landscape painting. Plessy's Green and Schnitzer's green are varieties of chromium oxide green. Chromium Oxides should be distinguished from the poisonous Chrome Greens which are mixtures with chrome yellow (lead chromate) and blue (usually Prussian).
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low to medium
Oil Film: average drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: toxic, suspected carcinogen

Veridian: Guignets Green, Pannetier's green, Smaragd green, Vert Emeraude, Transparent Oxide of Chromium (PG 18). Hydrated Chromium Oxide is a transparent color of relatively weak tinting strength best used for glazing. It shares Chromium Oxides's permanence. It is often mixed with Cadmium Yellow to get Cadmium Green or with Zinc Yellow to get Permanent Green. Phthalocyanine Green is often used as a substitute. Being much stronger, it is often found reduced as Veridian Hue in students' grades. Mittler's green is a variety of viridian.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low but more than double Chrome Oxide
Oil Film: average drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: toxic, suspected carcinogen, do not breathe dust

Cobalt Titanate Green Spinel: Light green oxide. (PG 50) A mixed metal oxide of calcined cobalt and titanium. An absolutely permanent, lightfast pigment of low-intensity color and weak tinting strength similar to that of cobalt blue.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: average to fast drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: toxic cobalt, do not breathe dust

Cobalt Green: Rinman's Green, Swedish Green. Made from oxides of cobalt and zinc, it is a pale to dark yellowish green with a bluish undertone that is difficult to match by mixing. It is permanent in all techniques, dries rapidly and well, but has little tinting strength. It is said to have properties like Chromium Oxide but is somewhat brighter, clearer, and more bluish. No longer in wide use and not ASTM rated.

Green Earth: (PG 23) A native clay colored by small amounts of iron in magnesium. Occurs in many localities, the best varieties being found in small deposits or pockets. The best European grades are known as Bohemian (pure green tone), Cyprian (yellowish), Verona (bluish), and Tyrolen (similarly bluish, but dull). It is quite transparent and of extremely low hiding and tinctorial power; therefore, it is of slight value as a body color in opaque oil painting but is used in glazes and as a watercolor wash. It was popular in Italy from the earliest recorded times, especially in tempera and fresco painting. Stable in all media and with all other pigments. May darken if oil or varnish penetrate the particles.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: slow drying, soft, flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Greens to Avoid
Emerald Green
(aka Schweinfurt green) is a poison used in insecticides (Paris Green) that tends to turn black. It should not be confused with Vert Emeraude, the French name for Veridian.
Verdigras / Verdigris, Malachite, Green Bice are all obsolete copper pigments of doubtful permanence.
Chrome Green (Leaf green, Leek green, Moss green, Myrtle green, Royal Green) is a mixture of Prussian blue and chrome yellow and is not permanent.
Sap Green (a lake made from unripe buckthorn berries. Fades rapidly.)

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BROWNS:

Raw and Burnt Sienna: (PBr 7) Native clay that contains iron. Bright yellow brown to red brown. Best pigment found in Northern Italy; similar but less transparent Siennas in USA. Raw Sienna has a color similar to that of a dark ochre but more delicate and less opaque. Burnt Sienna is usually roasted Raw Sienna. Compared with the other earth colors, native or artificial, it has the most brilliant, clear, fiery, transparent undertone. And its red-brown top tone is least chalky in mixtures. Color and composition depend on source and conditions of calcination. One of the most useful pigments in all techniques and inexpensive to produce. Absolutely permanent with outstanding weather resistance.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: average to fast drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Raw and Burnt Umber: (PBr 7) An earth consisting chiefly of a hydrated oxide of iron and some oxide of manganese, used in its natural (Raw) state as a blue-brown pigment (aka Sicilian Brown, Terra Ombre, or Turkey Brown) or, after heating (Burnt), as a dark reddish-brown pigment (aka Spanish Brown). Occurs in Italy but the best grades are said to come from Cyprus (Turkey Brown or Umber). Burnt Umber contains slightly more oil than Raw Umber.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: fast drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: toxic manganese, do not breathe dust

Burnt Green Earth: Berona or Verona Brown, Terre Verte Brulee, Transparent Brown. Is a burnt variety of terre verte (PG 23) used in oil technique as a deep, transparent brown. It is permanent but best used as a glaze.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: slow drying, soft, flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Mars Brown: (PBr 6) a color variation of synthetic iron oxide. Absolutely permanent and has the same general properties as the pure red oxides. Outstanding chemical, heat, and weather resistance. Low tinting strength.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: average to fast drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Alizarin Brown: Rubens Madder. A rather dull but transparent brown. Its properties are identical with those of alizarin red (PR 83). The brown may be produced as the result of an occasional off-color batch of red. Also called madder brown or brown madder.
Lightfastness: III
Oil Absorption: Low to medium
Oil Film: slow drying, hard, brittle
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Browns to Avoid
Vandyke brown, Cassel and Calogne Earth
have partially decomposed vegetable matter in them and darken and crack badly.
Sepia is from the ink sacs of cuttlefish, octopus, etc. and fades in light. Used in watercolor and as ink. Replace with Burnt Umber in oils.
Vandyke Red is Copper (cupric) ferrocyanide. A poisonous color with a composition similar to Prussian Blue but with copper replacing the iron. Blackens in sulfur fumes. Also known as Hatchett's or Florentine Brown.
Bistre is from incompletely burned beechwood and is best replaced by Raw Umber.

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BLACKS:

Mars Black: Black Iron Oxide. (PBk 11) is created by oxidation of ferrous hydroxide followed by calcination. It is a very dark brownish black (from the Iron), yielding warmer tonalities of grays in mixtures with white than do the other carbon black pigments, and it is also a better drier, is nongreasy, and develops good, fairly flexible paint films in oil. A good black for underpainting.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: average drying, hard, fairly flexible
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Ivory Black: Bone Black. (PBk 9) The most commonly employed black pigment, it is made of carbon, calcium phosphate, and calcium carbonate, calcium sulfate, or other impurities. It has a brownish undertone as compared to the vine black series, but is cooler than Mars Black. Made by charring animal bones or (originally) ivory scraps which make it finer, more intense, and of a higher carbon content than bone. It is light and fluffy, but less so than Lamp Black. It takes up considerable oil in the grinding process (making it less suitable for underpainting), and it dries slowly, creating a soft, brittle film. It serves well as an all-around black and tinting color. It is the only member of the impure carbon group that is recommended as a permanent artist color. However, it is one of the worst pigments to use full strength or in nearly full strength as an undercoat in oil paintings: a film of any other pigment laid over straight ivory black is extremely likely to crack. It is probably better to use Mars Black for underpainting and Ivory black for glazing mixed with a fat medium to add flexibility.
Paris Black is an inferior grade of ivory black.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: slow drying, soft, and brittle
Toxicity: Hazardous, do not breathe dust

Lamp Black:Vegetable Black, Carbon Black, Oil Black. (PBk 6) The oldest pigment known to man, it is almost pure carbon made from soot collected when fatty oils are burnt. It is more commonly found than the purer and more intense Carbon Black (PBk 7) that streaks in oil. It tends to retard drying in oil colors and is insoluble in organic solvents which is probably why it was so rejected by the Flemish. It should not be used in underpainting unless mixed with a strong siccative color such as lead white or umber, but one might be better advised to avoid it altogether in favor of the blacks discussed above. Pine Soot Black is a Chinese form of lampblack made up of pure carbon.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: High
Oil Film: very slow drying, soft, and brittle
Toxicity: Hazardous, do not breathe dust

Mixtures: some manufacturers, such as Permalba, have created blacks made from mixtures of these pigments, in order to capitalize on the strengths and diminish the weaknesses of each.

Paynes Gray: A mixture of ultramarine (PB 29), Mars black (PBk 11), and yellow ochre (PY 43).

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WHITES:

Flake White: Cremnitz White, Flemish White, French White. Basic Lead Carbonate. (PW 1) Despite its toxicity it is still the most popular oil color. Modern Flake White does not react in the same way as the old stack process white. Lead white creates a tough, lean, flexible film, has good tint resistance and opacity and is very permanent. The lead also aids in the drying of oil colors with which it is mixed. Lead poisoning is accumulative but basic precautions prevent "painter's colic." A coat of varnish over the dried film prevents darkening from contact with sulfur in the atmosphere. Its flexibility makes it very good for priming.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Very Low
Oil Film: very fast drying, hard, flexible
Toxicity: extremely toxic, do not ingest, do not breathe dust

Titanium White: Trademark name Titanox (PW 6) Titanium Oxide or Dioxide or Titanium-Barium pigments. Gradually replacing Flake White. Early pigment did have problems with film strength and was always used with zinc oxide. Some older documents warn that Titanium does not react with oil to create a mixed paste, so it is less likely to mask yellowing of the oil. Modern pigments have been produced with greater film stability, resisting well the effects of heat, light, and atmosphere. It possesses the highest tint resistance of any white, is the most opaque, and, in its present form, it is very permanent. But the pigment still creates slow drying and brittle films. "Titanium Pigment" is Titanium white 25%, blanc fixe or other inert pigment 75%. Titanolith is a trademarked name for a titanium white and lithopone pigment used in grounds.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Low
Oil Film: slow drying, brittle
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Zinc White: Chinese White, Snow White, Zinc Oxide. (PW 4) A semi-opaque white of reasonable tint resistance, it was developed in 1751 and commercially produced in 1850 by burning zinc at 300 degrees C. It is a brilliant cold white that is very stable, but it dries much more slowly than flake white. It creates a hard, brittle film which should not be used for priming or layered painting techniques as it creates one of the least elastic oil films. It is acceptable for alla prima painting and is recommended for the impressionist or sketch artist who wants a brilliant white that won't yellow. Unlike lead white, zinc does not yellow when it comes into contact with sulfur fumes, since the product of any combination of sulfur and zinc is itself white. Zinc is said to reduce chalking and growth of mildew in house paints. But in oils it reacts to create a hard, brittle film of soapy crystals that can chalk and speed the appearance of fading in organic colors, though it is said to be stable in mixtures with inorganics. In mixtures with Titanium it is said to be beneficial, making the paint more weatherfast. It does absorb UV radiation (used in sunblock) which may reduce the effects of UV on paint film deterioration. It is the most transparent of the available white pigments.
Lightfastness: I
Oil Absorption: Very Low
Oil Film: very slow drying, hard, brittle
Toxicity: not toxic, do not breathe dust

Silver White: is a nonstandard term that has been used for both flake white and zinc white. In French, blanc d'argent means flake white.

Mixtures: As with the blacks above, some manufacturers have created compound mixtures of white pigments in order to create a balance of characteristics. The usual combination is some form of Titanium and Zinc.
Sublimed White Lead: A basic lead sulfate that contains zinc. A dense white with many of the characteristics of flake white (PW 1) but inferior as regards low oil absorption, brushing qualities, color, and stability in mixtures with other pigments. It surpasses flake white in opacity, is not so poisonous and turns dark less readily on exposure to sulfur fumes.

Transparent Whites and Fillers:
Barytes:
Native barite or heavy spar (barium sulfate), finely ground, washed, and bleached. A white powder with no coloring power and practically transparent in oil, where it tends to impart muddy tones. Used as an adulterant and inert pigment in cheap paints and colors. Very heavy. Use in paints probably began in the eighteenth century.
Blanc fixe:
Artificial barium sulfate, very much finer and fluffier than native barytes; they have the same chemical composition but are entirely different in pigment qualities. Used as a base for the more opaque lakes and as an inert pigment in house paints, etc., where, if added in proper proportions (generally 10 percent), it is not considered an adulterant, as it imparts good weathering qualities. Almost transparent in oil, it is of no use in permanent oil painting, but has been recommended as a watercolor and fresco white, in which mediums it retains its white color and is permanent. Introduced in the early or middle nineteenth century in France.
Strontium White:
Both artificial and native strontium sulfates have the same properties as blanc fixe and barytes, strontium being an element closely resembling barium. Entirely superseded by the barium whites, which are much less expensive.
Lithopone: Zinc sulfide 30% and barium sulfate (blanc fixe) 70% intimately combined by chemical means, the blanc fixe being coalesced with and becoming an integral part of the pigment, not an adulterant. It is a fine, white opaque pigment of low cost that has largely replaced zinc oxide for interior house paint. It used to darken in sunlight and brighten after a nights darkness. But new methods of production have minimized this effect. It is sometimes used in grounds and is added to zinc white to impart opacity.

 

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History, Definitions, and Techniques | Drying Oils and Mediums
Resins and Varnishes | Pigments Past | Pigments Present | Pigment Chemistry
Supports for Painting | Grounds on Canvas | Techniques of Past Masters
Discussion with National Gallery Conservator

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