Spotlight on Cobalt Blue


cobalt blue
Cobalt Blue is a clean blue that is neither warm nor cold. With a moderate tinting strength, it is useful on the palette for muted colour mixes. It is semi-transparent in both Winsor & Newton Artists’ Oil Colour and Artists’ Water Colour. Cobalt blue deep, a unique, red shade cobalt blue is made by using Cobalt zinc silicate.

Until the nineteenth century the best blue pigment available to artists was ultramarine. Laboriously ground from lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone mined only in distant Afghanistan, the prohibitive costs of this pigment prompted the Napoleonic administration to find an alternative. The chemist Louis-Jacques Thenard was commissioned by the French interior minister, Chaptal, himself an industrial chemist, to develop a synthetic substitute for ultramarine.

Thenard knew the famous Sevres potteries used salts containing cobalt (smalt) to produce their blue glazes, and in 1802, from a mix of cobalt salts and alumina, he produced a pigment called cobalt blue. With a purer tint than Prussian Blue, it was immediately taken up by artists.

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