MATISSE MAGENTA LIGHT
Chemical Description: Blend Arylide yellow, Naphthol red & Titanium dioxide
Pigment Numbers: PY74 PR122 PW6
Lightfastness Rating: BWS8
Pigment Opacity: Opaque
Paint Opacity: Opaque
Matisse Magenta Light is a blend of highly permanent pigments. While the color itself has not been tested by the ASTM both ingredients have been tested individually and both are ASTM I. It is a curious color with a fascinating history. A fashion student might call it an attractive blush pink but it has uses that go far beyond fashion and looking good.
In the early years of the 20th century scientific painting ideas became popular, especially in the United States. Published schematics of palettes used by George Bellows, Robert Henri, and others associated with Henri’s art school show color arranged mathematically according to the Maratta color system that was in vogue in New York at the time. This was a system based on mixing all colors from primary colors and Maratta paint came in tubes with numbers and letters rather than traditional names. This color system had its greatest strength in the beautiful harmonies possible from using the tertiary colors made by these colors. The down side of the system was that while its enthusiastic adherents happily indulged in the numerous rules about mixing triads, and calling paint by its letter and number, it was bit too much like gobbledegook for other artists and the idea eventually faded into history.
It did however seed the idea of thinking radically differently about color in tubes and when acrylics were new in the 1960’s and 70’s there arose the idea of scientific painting systems in which colors would be located in logical places on the color wheel with tints would be blended by the manufacturer much like pastels are sold with pre-made tints and shades. The reason this idea did not take the world by storm is that artists do not buy colors for reasons of mathematics and logic, they buy colors for emotional reasons plus the experience that teaches them that some colors are more useful than others no matter where on a color wheel they are located. Look at the Matisse color chart - the colors are there for emotional and usefulness reasons and there is nothing robotic about it. Two colors, however, survived from from earlier scientific ideas - Magenta Quin Violet and Magenta Light. Why did they keep selling while there were other colors that failed the acceptance test? Magenta Quin Violet is perhaps more obvious. There is a need for the spectrum magenta color on the palette but Magenta Light is less obvious at first sight.
Perhaps artists like it because it is a perfect color for two things. Firstly it behaves like an off-white. When lightening colors from cool reds to blue-violets it is often better to use Magenta Light since by having color in it it is more gentle as a lightener than using pure white would be. More importantly though, it forms a base for mixing colors from lavender, through mauve, to soft cornflower blues. These sorts of colors are very common in nature. Not only are they the colors of the non yellow and red wildflowers, but they are the colors of the atmosphere as the day progresses. Distant hills will borrow touches of these colors in the middle of the day, and as the sun goes down these colors migrate into the sky and touch the clouds. During the last months of his life Vincent Van Gogh developed a liking for contrasts between these sort of mauves and violet, and golden ochres. This can be seen in paintings like Landscape At Auvers In The Rain where the mauve colors are full of his emotion. It is the emotion that connects us to his painting and in a more subtle and subdued way it is emotion that connects us to the color in a tube of paint. We are no different to Vincent in that regard.
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