Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Is it REALLY Black?

When I was trying to advance my understanding of high-contrast black and white (think Rembrandt), I created a series titled, "Hidden World (at the White Lotus)." After I finished the originals, I took them to my favorite giclee (fine art prints) artist, Janet Smith of Sterling Editions, and asked her to recreate the colors.

Seems I put a very hard task in front of her. She commented that there were many shades and tones of black in each painting.

What does that mean? According to sources, black is the absence of light. Black alone makes for a lack of information to the viewer. Here are paintings by some of the masters. Do you notice what they did to give form and focus (or unfocus) to the object?
(click on image to enlarge)

"Portrait in Black & Grey" - James McNeil Whistler

"The Brawl" - Giacomo Ceruti

"Portrait of a Bearded Man" - Giorione Barbarelli

"Petunia - Purple & Black" - Georgia O' Keeffe

"The Bellelli Family" - Edgar Degas

(Next blog will be about Pierre Soulages. He is a 91-year old French painter who has been painting in black since the 1970s.)


  1. Really interesting. I guess I just thought it was black or dark and that's all. Thanks, Jen

  2. My painting teacher in college showed me a tube of black oil paint that she had had in her paintbox for over 30 years. She told me painters should never use straight black out of the tube, because there's so many subtle nuanced shades of dark color that can be mixed to better effect. She also speculated that her one tube of black paint, if extended properly, had enough pigment to paint the entire classroom. EE