Spotlight on Vandyke Brown


Vandyke Brown
Generally made from bituminous earth or a black pigment mixed with calcined natural iron oxide, Vandyke Brown is a permanent, lightfast and transparent pigment. Originally made from a lignite or bituminous earth containing iron oxide found in Kassel or Cologne, Germany, it was known as Cassel Earth and Cologne Earth.

Vandyke Brown proved a popular colour in the 17th century and was notably used by the Flemish painter Van Dyke in many of his paintings. Today, the formulations for Artists' Oil Colour and Winton Oil Colour stay as true as possible to the original (bituminous earth with burnt umber) while the other colour ranges, due to the unsuitability of the pigment when mixed with some binders, are a mixture of calcined natural iron oxide mixed with a black pigment.

Made from an earth pigment, the colour of Vandyke Brown can vary greatly between different brands. Winsor & Newton have tried to keep as close as possible to their colour charts dating from the 19th century to achieve a genuine Vandyke Brown. It is a useful brown, often used for shading.

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