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Alphabe Thursday B is for Brown

November 28, 2013

2013-11-28 08.08.07

Remembering again my paintbox as a child; I don’t think I used the brown too often.  We lived by the sea and the sun shone every day. Didn’t it? There was need for shade or gloom. Nonetheless, the names Burnt Sienna and Umber sounded so beautiful and foreign; but I had not understood why until quite recently.  Brown did not come to the artist’s pallette until the late Renaissance; until then artists such as Cennino were lightening and darkening the tone of their works with white and black. Then the Baroque period came ‘the era of deep shadows, dramatic black, counterpoint to fulvous highlights.’ So between the golden glow and the heavy gloom came the new yellows, ochre and brown pigments

Brown really was the least lovely of all pigments; because it came from the ground albeit in a wide range of shades.

The ochres or iron ores have been used in painting for ever and those from Sienna have remained a popular choice.  Raw sienna is a yellow pigment but when roasted it takes a warm brownish red.   But still nothing matched the deep colour of umber.  It was darker than sienna because it contained more manganese in the iron oxide.  Umber has been used in European painting since the 15th century.  It was assumed that umber came from Umbria, Italy; but this has been unfounded.  Umber (also umbrella) comes from the Latin Omra meaning  shadow.  The rich red-brown burnt umber, highly valued for rendering deep but translucent shadow, was imported from Turkey.

The Englishman, Edward Norgate  wrote in 1620s that burnt umber is ‘a collour greasy and foul, and harde to worke withall if yow grinde him he is bought, yett of very greate use foe shadowes and hayres etc.’ (sic)

In Colour, Victoria Finlay tells us of the British forger Eric Hebborn who suggests that the earth colours were not promoted because they were finer, stronger or better simply; they were cheaper.

The story of brown could be continued …

alphabet thursday

6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 28, 2013 3:21 pm

    I used to think that brown was a boring color, but as I get older, I’m beginning to appreciate it more! So many pretty shades. It’s one of my favorite colors in spring…the freshly tilled garden dirt!

  2. November 28, 2013 4:56 pm

    I think brown is a great color as a base for almost everything.

    hope you have a great day.

    • November 28, 2013 5:08 pm

      Yes more flattering and kinder than black ; my day is good so far with love also to you xx

  3. November 28, 2013 5:25 pm

    Reblogged this on Living, Libraries and [Dead] Languages and commented:

    My little brown pot is not so brown it is Burnt Umber

  4. November 29, 2013 2:08 am

    I love brown and all its shades. I’m bias though being a brunette. I remember coloring as a child and all the ladies were brunettes. 🙂

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