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A Gamboge by any other name…

By March 19, 20162 Comments

We here at Art Central stumble across new information and intriguing tidbits often, and thought we’d share with you!

Did You Know- Gamboge

The color of Gamboge has a long history as being a preferred warm, transparent yellow for use by artists spanning cultures and centuries. 8th century watercolor paintings from Eastern Asia, illuminated illustrations from the Middle Ages in Europe, and paintings by Rembrandt and Turner are among a few works making brilliant use of the pigment.

Gamboge is derived from the resin of a tree that frequents South East Asia, the Garcinia evergreen. When a tree is aged 10 years, then they are suitable to have the resin extracted. Then the substance is loaded into bamboo cylinders and fire-roasted, and finally the now-hardened resin is powdered.

A problematic trait of true Gamboge is its poor lightfastness, as well as its high level of toxicity. In the early 17th century doses of Gamboge were prescribed as a medicine for various maladies, but rapidly dropped in popularity when recipients started dying from the stuff.

Enter Winsor and Newton. Although they had been making Gamboge paint true to its historical recipe, they changed over to a less toxic and more lightfast alternative formula in 2005, and named the new formulation New Gamboge. However, recently, the pigments being used were discontinued, so Winsor and Newton has reformulated New Gamboge, now made with pigments PY150 (an azo nickel) and PR209 (quinacridone red), which brings this color closer to its original counterpart, making it more authentic.

Other companies as well have their own formulations of the historic Gamboge Yellow.  M. Graham’s Gamboge (PY151 benzimidazolone yellow and PO62 benzimidazolone orange) being slightly brighter and leaning closer to yellow than Winsor and Newton’s earthier tone, and Daniel Smith with their own New Gamboge (PY97 arylide yellow and PY110 isoindolinone yellow), which can be construed as almost a halfway point between Winsor and Newton and M. Graham’s shades.


PS… a note on NEW graphite putty!

From Portuguese company ArtGraf comes this exciting new drawing material! A quality, artist grade graphite, formulated into a malleable putty, it is also water-soluble, letting artists decide the shape of their drawing tool! Creates a wide range of shades and lends itself well to gestural work and large compositions, and also a fun sketching tool.

artgraf no1