Vincent’s Tools and Colors


The ancients accepted only three primary colours, yellow, red and blue, and modern painters don’t accept any others. These three colours, in fact, are the only ones that can’t be broken down and are irreducible. The whole world knows that the sun’s rays break down into a series of seven colours, which Newton called primary: violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red; but it’s clear that the name ‘primary’ wouldn’t fit three of these colours, which are composite, since orange is made with red and yellow — green with yellow and blue — violet with blue and red. As for indigo, it can’t be counted among the primary colours, either, since it’s no more than a variety of blue. We must therefore acknowledge with Antiquity that in nature there are only three truly elementary colours, which, by being mixed two by two, create three other composite colours, called binaries: orange, green and violet.
These rudiments, developed by modern scholars, have led to the notion of certain laws, which form a luminous theory of colours — a theory that E. Delacroix mastered scientifically and thoroughly, after having instinctively known it.  2v:4(See Grammaire des arts du dessin, 3rd ed., Renouard).
If one combines two of the primary colours — yellow and red, for example, in order to create a binary colour, orange, this binary colour will attain its maximum brilliance when one places it close to the third primary colour, not used in the mixture. Similarly, if one combines red and blue to produce violet — that binary colour — the violet will be heightened by the immediate proximity of yellow. Lastly, if one combines yellow and blue to form green, this green will be heightened by the immediate proximity of red. Each of the three primary colours is rightly called Complementary in relation to the binary colour that corresponds with it. Thus blue is the complementary of orange, yellow is the complementary of violet, and red the complementary of green. Vice versa, each of the composite colours is the complementary of the primary colour not used in the mixture. This reciprocal heightening is what’s called the law of simultaneous contrast. 2v:5
If the complementary colours are taken at equal value, that’s to say, at the same degree of brightness and light, their juxtaposition will raise both the one and the other to an intensity so violent that human eyes will scarcely be able to bear to look at it. And by a singular phenomenon, these same colours, which are heightened by being juxtaposed, will destroy one another by being mixed. Thus — when one mixes together blue and orange in equal quantities, the orange being no more orange than the blue is blue — the mixing destroys the two tones and the result is an absolutely colourless grey.
But — if one mixes together two complementaries in unequal proportions, they only partially destroy one another, and you’ll have A BROKEN TONE — which will be a variety of grey. That being so, new contrasts will emerge from the juxtaposition of two complementaries, one of which is pure and the other broken. The contest being unequal, one of these two colours triumphs, and the intensity of the dominant one doesn’t prevent there being harmony between the two.  2r:6
Because if one now brings together similar colours in the pure state, but with differing degrees of energy, for example, dark blue and light blue, one will obtain a different effect, in which there will be a contrast by virtue of the difference in intensity, and harmony by virtue of the similarity. Lastly, if two similar colours are juxtaposed, one in the pure state, the other broken — for example, pure blue with grey blue, the result will be another sort of contrast which will be tempered by the analogy between them. One can thus see that there exist several ways, different from each other, but equally infallible, of strengthening, supporting, attenuating or neutralizing the effect of a colour, and they involve working on what’s next to it — by touching what isn’t the colour itself.
In order to heighten and harmonize his colours, he uses the contrast between complementaries and agreement between analogues all together, in other words, the repetition of a vivid tone by the same broken tone.10  

To Theo van Gogh. Nuenen, on or about Saturday, 18 April 1885

Paints, Brushes, Canvases, Frames, Drawing Tools, Papers, Color Tools, Methods, Training

Colours, ground more coarsely, in large tubes like the large tubes of silver white and zinc. For the decoration.

Cobalt large tubes 6
Ultramarine 6
Veronese green 6
Emerald green 6
Vermilion 2
Chrome 1 lemon 6
,, 2 6
,, 3 6
Orange lead 2
Yellow ochre 1
6 Zinc white 6
6 Silver white 6
Small tubes
6 Prussian blue
6 Geranium lake
6 Carmine
6 Ordinary lake


Br. 1990: 678 | CL: 532
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, Tuesday, 4 September 1888

Tolstoy’s Les Légendes Russes,3 and I’ll also let you have the article on E. Delacroix that I’ve spoken to you about.
Like me, for instance, who can count so many years in my life when I completely lost all inclination to laugh, leaving aside whether or not this was my own fault, I for one need above all just to have a good laugh. I found that in Guy de Maupassant and there are others here, Rabelais2 among the old writers, Henri Rochefort3 among today’s, where one can find that — Voltaire in Candide.4
On the contrary, if one wants truth, life as it is, De Goncourt, for example, in Germinie Lacerteux,5 La fille Elisa,6 Zola in La joie de vivre7 and L’assommoir8 and so many other masterpieces paint life as we feel it ourselves and thus satisfy that need which we have, that people tell us the truth.
The work of the French naturalists Zola, Flaubert, Guy de Maupassant, De Goncourt, Richepin, Daudet, Huysmans is magnificent and one can scarcely be said to belong to one’s time if one isn’t familiar with them. Maupassant’s masterpiece is Bel-ami; I hope to be able to get it for you.9
Is the Bible enough for us? Nowadays I believe Jesus himself would again say to those who just sit melancholy, it is not here, it is risen. Why seek ye the living among the dead?10
Jules Breton
Pisarro and son Lucien
Japanese woodblock printers – Hiroshige, Eisen,
10 things you may not have known about Vincent:
Vincent’s mother had a stillborn son on the same date exactly one year before Vincent was born. The older brother also named Vincent and was buried in the local cemetery in Zundert, Netherlands.
Vincent was only struck by 7 episodes in his life where he broke from reality, all in the last 3 years of his life. All but one of these episodes lasted a week or less – most of his life he was lucid (though passionate, volatile and argumentative in conversation).
Three of Vincent’s uncles were art dealers, one with the powerful firm Goupil and Valladon with offices in London, The Hague and Paris where each of the brothers worked at different times in their lives.
Vincent was a well educated young man, fluent enough to write letters comfortably and regularly in Dutch, English and French and knew The Bible from years of study and two as a preacher.
Vincent pursued his talent for drawing and painting for only the last 10 years of his life, with only the last 5 using color (beyond shades of brown and greys and black of the north before Paris in 1886).
Some of his paintings contain grains of blowing sand from the beach or canvas marks from when they were carried back under his arm, still wet and pressed against another from the same day – Vincent painted prolifically and out of doors when he could.
Beside his formal education as a young man, Vincent was very well read in the novelists and thinkers of the day as an adult and was constantly reading by candle or gaslight in the evening – Emile Zola, Guy de Maupassant, De Goncourt, Flaubert, Huysmans, Tolstoy
Vincent enrolled briefly in art school in Paris in 1886 where he worked along contemporary painters destined for fame and notoriety (Lautrec, Bernard, Anquetin, Signac) and was introduced to the most famous and respected of the time (Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Pissaro, Seurat, Degas, Rodin)
Vincent suggested and sought out the asylum at St. Remy himself to live and work after his episode in Arles and related confinement at the “Hotel Dieu” hospital there – he was not “placed” in St. Remy, rather, he suggested it.
There is an argument made about the details of his death/suicide and that some circumstances and evidence point to the possibility of Vincent being shot accidentally or on purpose by another person who lived in Auvers at the time of his death.

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