National Gallery Technical Bulletin Volume 24, 2003



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Man painting a Boat, 1883, Courtauld Collection (P.1948.SC.393)

15.9 x 25 cm

Hardwood (mahogany?)



Single layer, white pigment in oil (lead white + some silica)

Horses in the Water: Study for ‘Bathers at Asnières’, 1883–4, Private Collection on extended loan to the Courtauld Gallery (LP.1997.XX.17)

c.15.8 x 24.7 cm

Hardwood (mahogany?)



None

A River Bank (The Seine at Asnières), c.1883 (NG 6559)

15.8 x 24.7 cm

Hardwood



None

The Rainbow: Study for ‘Bathers at Asnières’, 1883–4 (NG 6555)

15.5 x 24.5 cm

Hardwood



None

Study for ‘Bathers at Asnières’, 1883–4 (NG 6561)

16 x 25 cm

Hardwood



None

The Angler, c.1884, Private Collection on extended loan to the Courtauld Gallery (LP.1997.XX.15)

24.9 x 15.9 cm

Hardwood (mahogany?)



None

Study for ‘La Grande Jatte’, c.1884–5 (NG 6556)

15.2 x 24.8 cm

Hardwood



None

Study for ‘La Grande Jatte’, c.1884–5 (NG 6560)

16 x 25 cm

Hardwood



None

The Morning Walk, 1885 (NG 6557)

24.9 x 15.7 cm

Hardwood



None

The Seine seen from La Grande Jatte, 1888 (NG 6558)

15.7 x 25.7 cm

Hardwood



Thin lead white priming

Study for ‘Le Chahut’, c.1889, Courtauld Collection (P.1948.SC.395)

c.22 x c.15.8 cm

Mahogany? (cut down from larger piece)



Single layer, white pigment in oil

At Gravelines, 1890, Courtauld Collection (P.1948.SC.397)

c.15.9 x c.25.2 cm

Hardwood (mahogany?)



Single layer, white pigment in oil (lead white + some silica)



TABLE 2 Seurat’s tube paints and their binding media


Date

Painting(s)

Pigment or mixture

Medium (note 1)

Other ingredients

1883–4

Studies for the Bathers at Asnières: A River Bank (The Seine at Asnières), NG 6559; The Rainbow: Study for ‘Bathers at Asnières’, NG 6555; Study for ‘Bathers at Asnières’, 1883–4, NG 6561

red lake

viridian


viridian + traces of lead white, chrome yellow (probably colourman’s or manufacturer’s mixture)

French ultramarine

cobalt blue: i) A River Bank ii) The Rainbow

lead white



probably linseed oil

probably poppy oil

heat-bodied linseed oil (possibly + some poppy?)

probably poppy oil

linseed oil

poppy oil

poppy oil


extender including barium sulphate or lithopone

1884

Bathers at Asnières, NG 3908, first campaign

madder, cochineal lakes

vermilion, often + red lake

cadmium yellow

viridian


viridian + traces of lead

white, chrome yellow

French ultramarine

cobalt blue

lead white (paint)

lead white (ground)



linseed oil

linseed oil

linseed oil, possibly heat-bodied

probably linseed oil

linseed oil

poppy oil, probably heat-bodied

probably linseed oil, possibly heat-bodied

poppy oil

linseed oil





1884–5

Studies (Study for ‘La Grande Jatte’, NG 6556; Study for ‘La Grande Jatte’, NG 6560; The Morning Walk, NG 6557)

chrome yellow

viridian


viridian + traces of lead white, chrome yellow

French ultramarine

lead white

lead white (in cream-coloured reeds, NG 6556)



linseed oil

linseed oil, heat-bodied in one case

linseed oil

linseed oil, possibly heat-bodied

poppy oil

linseed oil



extender including barium sulphate or

lithopone; some soap formation or a

soap added, possibly a palmitate (note 2)


1886–7

Bathers at Asnières, NG 3908, reworking; The Bridge at Courbevoie, Courtauld Collection, P.1948.SC.394

zinc yellow + other chromate yellows

emerald green

emerald green + lead white + traces of zinc yellow, cadmium yellow, possibly chrome yellow?

French ultramarine

cobalt blue

lead white



linseed oil

poppy oil, heat-bodied

linseed oil, heat-bodied

linseed oil, heat-bodied

linseed oil, heat-bodied

i) heat-bodied linseed oil, ii) linseed + poppy oils, heat-bodied



extender including barium sulphate, starch; some soap formation or a soap added, possibly a palmitate

extender, possibly barium sulphate

extender including barium sulphate or lithopone, starch

some soap formation or a soap added, possibly a palmitate

some soap formation or a soap added, possibly a palmitate, in the Bridge at Courbevoie sample


1888

The Seine seen from La Grande Jatte, NG 6558

emerald green

lead white (paint)

lead white (ground)


probably linseed oil

poppy oil, heat-bodied

linseed + poppy oils, partially heat-bodied


extender of silicaceous material

1889–90

Young Woman powdering Herself, Courtauld Collection, P.1932.SC.396; The Channel of Gravelines, Grand Fort-Philippe, NG 6554; all samples from borders unless otherwise stated
The Channel of Gravelines, main body of painting (note 3)

madder lake + vermilion (either artist’s or colourman’s mixture)

cadmium orange

French ultramarine

cobalt blue

manganese violet

lead white (border, Young Woman)

lead white (white on beach, perhaps intensified during painting of border, Gravelines)

lead white (ground, Young Woman)


‘red’

‘blue’


linseed oil, heat-bodied

linseed oil, heat-bodied

linseed oil, heat-bodied

linseed oil, heat-bodied

linseed oil, heat-bodied

linseed oil, heat-bodied

linseed oil, heat-bodied

linseed oil, heat-bodied

poppy oil, perhaps + some linseed, lightly heat-bodied

poppy oil






Notes

1 Many of the samples examined contained mixtures of pigments. In some cases the palmitate/stearate ratios obtained were intermediate between those expected for linseed oil and those for poppy oil, so within the region for walnut oil. It would therefore be possible to interpret these results as suggesting the presence of walnut oil in the paint. However, examination of the pigment content suggested that these were better interpreted as mixtures of linseed and poppy: most contained lead white which was usually bound in poppy oil, while the other pigments, where a pure sample could be examined, usually contained linseed oil. It should also be remembered that Seurat could have added a little extra oil to his paint to adjust its working properties, which was not necessarily the same as that in the tube.

2 An indicator for the presence of soaps, probably of lead, in several samples, most notably from The Bridge at Courbevoie, is an apparent increase in the proportion of palmitate in the paint. Soap formation might be expected over time and might be encouraged by the presence of certain pigments or additives, or even water, but it seems unlikely that this would affect the oil fatty acid proportions so unevenly. The effect observed may be due to the deliberate addition of a palmitate soap at some stage during the manufacture or packing of the paint, possibly to improve wetting of the pigment by the oil medium. French ultramarine, for example, is a hydrophilic pigment and, without some effort or the assistance of a wetting agent, is poorly wetted by the oil. In one or two cases the raised palmitate content meant that the analytical results could not be interpreted.

3 Unfortunately the pigment content of these samples was not examined.






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