03 June 2020

Naples Yellow, from Vesuvius to Sennelier





Naples Yellow comes from the Vesuvius region around the bay of Naples and was no doubt used extensively for frescoes 2000 years ago.

I do not use it for a few reasons, one of which is basically that it is a milky colour, too milky indeed! It contains a lot of titanium white premixed by any number of paint companies which sells the colour in tube. As a painter I would not accept someone else’s calculation of a paint's hue or its value. If I need to make a Naples Yellow I use Citron Yellow, cadmium yellow, and various reds to create a warm yellow tone, or hue. But it is me who creates the amount of both hue and value, because it is me who adds the titanium myself. Naples Yellow suffers like so many other colours which have been premixed to create lighter pigments. Why would I let a paint company dictate the value parameters of a painting? It is the motif which dictates the kind of colour and its hue. It cannot be the other way around!


Cézanne, apparently used only about 5 or 6 colours to make his most sumptuous works notably the version of the Jas de Bouffan in Aix.

And below, an example using a yellow made on the spot (with cadmium yellow, citron yellow,  rose madder and titanium white) to fit the appropriate needs for the hue and value of this painting. It resembles a Naples Yellow right from Sennelier! 

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 Evening Prayer Brunswick Heads, 8 May, 2020, oil on canvas board, 40 X 35 cm


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