Spotlight on: Gold Ochre

Gold Ochre is a distinctive, reddish, golden yellow from the ochre family. The name ‘ochre’ originates from the Greek meaning ‘pale yellow’, but there is nothing pale about this colour which can range from a light yellow, to a red, brown, and even a purple ochre.

The history of Gold Ochre

Archeologically ochre is globally abundant and owes its multitude of shades to the subtle variations in its core components: hydrous or anhydrous iron oxide, manganese oxide and clay from silicate rocks. Artistically ochre can be traced to the Middle to Late Stone Age but in recent years this colour has been in the spotlight of many contemporary colour schemes.

Gold Ochre in popular culture

Twenty years ago, in 2000 a survey showed that almost half of people when asked stated their favourite colour to be blue; during the late 90’s cobalt blue became synonymous with Conran Blue, and at the turn of the millennium Meryl Streep’s famous cerulean-blue sweater monologue in The Devil Wears Prada (2006) again showed the popularity of this colour. However, for the social media aligned Generation Z, it seems ochre is the colour of the moment.

Gen Z Yellow has been with us since 2016 when it featured in Beyonce’s Hold Up music video. Ranging from pale yellow to deep golden mustard, it caught the attention of fashion designers – like blue did in the 90’s – and is now being referred to specifically as ‘ochre’. The deep orange hue of Gold Ochre is basking in the spotlight in the middle of the spectrum ranging from yellow to brown. According to trend expert Dayna Isom Johnson in 2019 there was an increase in searches for ‘ochre’ and specifically ‘burnt orange’ and Pinterest report similar related searches for ochre such ‘ochre living room’ and ‘ochre bedroom’ for home inspirations.

Gold Ochre in renowned artworks

In truth, ochre has always been with us and at the centre of artist’s palettes. This prehistoric colour, currently enjoying a ‘comeback’, is so ubiquitous that it is easy to forget it has never left us. At the beginning of the 19th-century ochre was one of the few colours that feature in Goya’s famous Black Paintings. Painted 200 years ago they are Francisco Goya’s most private works, painted directly onto the plaster walls of his home with a limited palette of ochre, gold, brown, grey and black.

Shades of ochre have been ever present in artists’ palettes. During their trips to Mexico and New Mexico, where they were captivated by the geometry and chromatic range in Native American and Mexican art and traditional buildings, Anni and Josef Albers drew great inspiration from the deep ochre of Adobe houses; made of sun-dried bricks used by the Ancestral Pueblo people. This informed Josef’s Variant/Adobe paintings, such as Reds and Ochre with Pink (1948), and later can be found in Anni’s Colour Study (Greens, Blue and Ochre) (1970). Writing to Nina and Wassily Kandinsky in 1936, Josef expressed “Mexico is truly the promised land of abstract art”.

In 2017 the desert is at the centre of a movie-like story when Willem de Kooning’s Woman-Ochre (1955) was found in a New Mexico antique store. Valued today at $100 million, its disappearance and reappearance is shrouded with mystery after it was taken from an Arizona museum three decades earlier. Painted by De Kooning in 1955 in his Greenwich Village studio as part of the Woman series, Woman-Ochre is painted in warm yellows, deep oranges and brownish reds, lending the painting its title.

Gold Ochre’s appeal seems to be the way it points back to the past and the future simultaneously. It is a primordial earth colour. It is the glowing light of old masters paintings, as much as the ‘golden light’ sought out by photographers at sunset. Its warmth reminds us of nature and the safety of home, but its domesticity is equally adaptable with the modernism of Albers or architecture of Luis Barragán’s Latin American hot ochre and pink painted buildings.

In 2016, the AkzoNobel Global Aesthetic Center named their ‘Colour of the Year’ as Ochre Gold, the same year Nike’s Air Max Desert Ochre was launched. Gold Ochre is a colour that seems to emanate the mystery of the desert, as much as the dynamism of modern living of Generation Z.

Today we produce many artist materials in Gold Ochre, from Professional Watercolour to Artists’ Oil Colour which can all be found here.