Van Gogh’s yellows turning brown

Van Gogh's yellows turning brown
Much has been made of the advances over the centuries, and particularly in the last century or two, in paint chemistry, allowing artists to work with an ever-broadening array of pigments, and often providing much needed replacements for older, plant-based pigments that were fugitive over time.

Not all advances in paint technology are for the better in that respect, however. A case in point is the mystery of why the brilliant yellows in many of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings have been turning brown with age.

A recent study, carried out with an ultra high-tech process, using high intensity x-rays generated by a synchrotron at the ESRF, a center for the study of materials in France, has found the chemical reaction responsible for the unfortunate degradation.

It turns out that Van Gogh was fond of using the relatively new color, chrome yellow (also here), made from lead chromate. This is an inexpensive pigment that produces a bright orange-yellow (think school bus color), but is prone to darkening. Presumably, Van Gogh choose chrome yellow over the also relatively new cadmium colors (also here) because of their relative expense.

The mystery in the pronounced degree with which Van Gogh’s yellows have been turning brown is apparently due to his penchant for adding white paint, of a kind that contained barium and sulphur, to his yellow. The combination of the other materials accelerated the darkening of the chrome yellow.

Research is continuing into how to stop, and possibly even reverse, the changes to his paintings.

The Van Gogh Museum has for some time been studying his materials, and their sources, in an effort to better conserve the works, and conservators have encountered other uses of fugitive pigments (see my post on the Restoration of Van Gogh’s The Bedroom).

One of the paintings examined in the recent study was Van Gogh’s Bank of the Seine (above). The Van Gogh museum’s page for this painting also has an interesting video about their comparison of the work, and the techniques used, with that of his contemporary, Monet.

[Via io9]


Olga Antonenko and Arseny Gutov (update)

CGpolis: Olga Antonenko and Arseny Gutov
When I first wrote about Russian concept artists, matte painters and illustrators Olga Antonenko and Arseny Gutov back in 2006, I was disappointed that their shared website, CGpolis didn’t assign credits for individual pieces, so it was impossible to determine which works were by one artist or the other, or whether any or all were collaborative.

The bad news is that I still can’t find much about the two artists individually, short of a small gallery on CGSociety credited to Antonenko, and two digital portraits on CGSociety and a small deviantART gallery devoted to Gutov.

The good news is that the CGplis site has been expanded and added to with more of their work. It’s divided into sections devoted to concept art, matte painting, 3D Graphics, compositing, cartoons and personal artworks in both digital and traditional media.

Of particular interest to me were the cartoons and concept art sections, where their boldly colorful and wonderfully stylized work for a number of projects comes to the fore.


Caravaggio in Rome

Caravaggio in Rome
Michelangelo Merisi, AKA Caravaggio, was one of history’s great painters. Born in Milan, his later assigned name come from his father’s association with the town of Caravaggio.

Caravaggio spent a good part of his checkered life in Rome, where an exhibition of his work goes went on display on the 20th of February and runs ran until 13 June, 2011 2010. [Sorry: got the year wrong – this was last year, I got caught in an internet time warp. I’ve changed tense in the rest of the article See addendum below.]

The exhibition marked the 400th anniversary of the artist’s death and was at the Scuderie del Quirinale, a museum housed in what was once stables for a palace.

The exhibition consisted of 24 paintings, seemingly a small number for a major exhibit, but the curators eschewed the usual practice of including works “related to” or “of the school of, or “from the workshop of” and limited the selections to works accepted without question to be from the master’s hand.

On loan from a number of sources were some of Caravaggio’s most striking and iconic works, a surprising accomplishment given the anniversary year.

The museum’s pages for the exhibition have information and a viewer for the works. The latter is unfortunately a poorly designed Flash module, in which you must painstakingly click through the thumbnails three at a time (how much simpler a page of linked thumbnails would have been, but museum sites love their little widgets).

The reward, after clicking on the larger preview image, is a pop-up with a reasonably large image of the painting. It’s tedious, but worth clicking through just to see the impressive selection of works included in the exhibit.

For better reproductions, see a resource like the Web Gallery of Art, or one of the many other resources for Caravaggio listed on ArtCyclopedia.

[Correction: I saw a notice about this exhibit in Rome, that is current and runs to 15 May, 2011. I did a Google search and came up with the other one from last year. Sorry to disappoint, but the online resources are still there and make a good jumping off point for digging into Caravaggio, always a worthwhile pursuit. – Charley]


The Lighthouse Keeper

The Lighthouse Keeper
The Lighthouse Keeper is a beautifully realized short (3 minute) animation that won the award for “Best Graduation Film” from the 2010 Annecy festival.

The film was created by a team of students (credits on the Vimeo page) graduating from the amazing Gobelins, l’école de l’image in Paris.

(See my previous posts about Gobelins students’ animations for Annecy, or a general search of Lines and Colors for other mentions.)

[Via Irene Gallo’s Saturday morning cartoons]


Francisco Pons Arnau

Francisco Pons Arnau
Francisco Pons Arnau was a Spanish Academic painter active in the mid 19th Century [Correction: late 19th, early 20th Centuries]. He became a follower of Joaquín Sorolla (see my recent post on Sorolla), and was influenced by Art Nouveau.

He painted portraits, figures, landscapes and what might be called intimate landscapes — garden scenes with detailed depictions of shrubs or trellised vines.

Beyond that, I’ve been able to find little information. Fortunately, there are several examples of his richly colored, light-filled paintings on the web.

The best selection I’ve come across is on The Athenaeum, and there is a nice, easy to access selection on Art Inconnu. There is a video slideshow overview of his work posted to YouTube by mariayutub.

[Initial idea via Francis Vallejo on Twitpic]


Ben Mauro

Ben Mauro
Benjamin Mauro is a concept artist and designer for the gaming and feature film industries, whose credits include work for WETA Workshop, Design Studio Press, LucasFilm, Sony Pictures Animation and others.

His work has been featured in books like Expose 5, Expose 7 and D’Artiste Concept Art from Ballistic Publishing, and Alien Race and Cosmic Motors from Design Studio Press.

Mauro studied at the DigiPen Institute of Technology, the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Arts and the Art Center College of Design.

His brightly imaginative take on monsters, mecha, alien worlds and other fantastic environments is marked by an affinity for texture, solidity of form and a nicely offbeat feeling for the concept of “alien” lifeforms.

His environments can be moody and atmospheric as well as future tech, and are often punctuated with glowing lights and highlights that give them an added dimension of visual interest.

There is a gallery of work on his website, with additional work and alternate or preliminary versions on his blog. There is also an archive of older work here, and a gallery on CGHub.