Spotlight on: Jewel-like Colours

Winsor & Newton has a long history of colour innovation, and in 2019 it reintroduced five of its outstanding colours: Transparent Orange, Quinacridone Violet, Aqua Green, Smalt (Dumont’s Blue) and Cobalt Green Deep.

Transparent Orange is a vibrant, strong and lively orange with the versatility to vary in colour due to its masstone being quite different from its undertone. Masstone is the colour that comes straight from the tube and undertone is found when scraping, stretching or diluting the masstone to reveal new facets of the colour. This colour’s masstone holds a deep, almost red-orange, and the undertone a light, almost yellow-orange.

The word orange was first used to describe only the fruit; the colour was called yellow-red. One of the earliest examples of the word orange as a colour was in 1502 when Elizabeth of York described a fabric as “slevys of orenge colour sarsenet”. The artist and theorist Wassily Kandinsky describes orange in his seminal 1911 writing Concerning the Spiritual in Art as “like a man convinced of his powers”, implying the certain confidence that orange holds.

Quinacridone Violet is a bright violet colour that is semi-transparent and, like Transparent Orange, has a wide range from its rich deep masstone to its lighter, almost pink undertone. It is based on the quinacridone pigment introduced in the 1950s. Quinacridone pigments are unique in having an intense colour while also being transparent, and range from yellow to orange to red to violet in hue. They are synthetic pigments considered high performing thanks to their colour intensity and lightfastness. The quinacridones are much loved among artists, who once they try them are seduced by their qualities.

Aqua Green is a semi-transparent turquoise hue with a masstone hue of dark, deep turquoise, through to a diluted or stretched undertone of a luminous turquoise green. This cool-toned colour sits between green and blue and is our third example of an incredibly versatile colour that you can choose to be of rich hue or light hue depending on application. The colour green is associated with nature, spring rites and environmental causes. There used to be a taboo associated with mixing colours, including making green from blue and yellow. But during the Renaissance it became more acceptable and artists made varying hues of green until 1775, when the Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele discovered copper arsenite: a green that would be very popular, but unfortunately contained a large amount of poison.

Smalt (Dumont’s Blue) is a bright variation on cobalt blue and an iconic colour steeped in rich history. Smalt, also known as Dumont’s Blue, is the ground pigment of cobalt glass used in classical stained glass and pottery where a cobalt compound would be included in a glass melt. Famous examples of this are Bristol blue glass, which is also used for the distinctive blue bottles of Harvey’s Bristol Cream sherry.

In 1890, Winsor & Newton’s scientific director, J Scott Taylor, labelled a small jar “best quality Smalt”. In 2006, Peter Waldron, Winsor & Newton’s senior research chemist opened the jar and formulated the closest modern alternative to the 1890 colour, a beautiful blue that can’t be mixed from available watercolours. When Winsor & Newton celebrated 175 years of colour making in 2007, Smalt, the pigment originally available in the 19th century, was reintroduced as a limited edition colour. Twelve years later, we were thrilled to be relaunch it once again.

Cobalt Green Deep has a blue undertone. In 1780, the Swedish chemist and mineralogist Sven Rinman discovered cobalt green when heating cobalt and zinc, the process of which Arthur Herbert Church included in his 1901 book The Chemistry of Paints and Painting.

The name of the element cobalt comes from the mythological German creature kobolt or kobold, a goblin or sprite blamed by medieval miners for the poisonous nature of arsenic ores of the metal cobalt. The myth has survived through the ages and today kobolds appear in the World of Warcraft video game series.