More of Doug Purdon's Secrets

During the almost three-hour presentation, the story of Winsor Newton comes alive and we are back to the future. The year is 1832 when Henry Newton and William Winsor introduced the world's first moist, pan watercolours. It would be another half-century before watercolours would be available in tubes. Now, almost 175 years later, Winsor Newton's watercolours remain known the world over for their permanence, colour brilliance, transparency, and quality. Impressive.

During the period 1836 to 1840, the company began manufacturing oil paints. Until tubed oils were available around 1880, oil paints were sold in - of all things - brass syringes. Who knew! To complement its product line-up, in 1950 Winsor Newton set the stage for the future through the manufacture of paint currently dubbed 'the medium of our age' - ever-versatile, miraculous acrylics (be still my biased heart!). Did you know that through highly-specialized testing at London's Tate Gallery, the longevity of Winsor Newton's Finity acrylics has been computed at up to 20,000 years?

The newest jewels in Winsor Newton's crown are water-miscible oils which the company introduced in the early 1990's. (Be still Doug's heart!). Can you imagine what Leonardo would be thinking had he known what the future held! Of interesting note, W/N's oil paints are still made by hand; it is only student-quality oils that are manufactured..

Speaking of Leonardo, during a visit to the National Gallery of Washington Doug obtained a copy of an infra-red photograph of da Vinci's painting 'Ginevra de'Benci'. Through layers and layers of paint, the infra-red technology reveals the pounce marks da Vinci made to transfer the image from his original drawing to the panel prior to painting. Nothing is secret anymore.... the tricks of the trade have been uncovered.

Returning to the Tate Gallery, one of Doug's photographs showed a restorer working on Sir Joshua Reynolds' painting of the wife of the first Governor General of Australia. Another showed Turner's paint box with its pre-mixed colours packaged in.... get ready for it......pig bladders! Yes, pig bladders were commonly used to house paint way back when! Whilst at the Tate, Doug was shown paint applications employed by John Singer Sargent, as well as the landscape oil painting techniques of John Constable. Pretty heady stuff.

On the subject of pigments, it was interesting to learn that most pigments used today are 80-100 years old. With the R&D and technology being put behind pigments today, thanks to a company like Winsor Newton artists are using the finest products ever.

Did you know that, once upon a time, a paint called 'Mummy' was made out of ground-up Egyptian mummies?! 'Tis true! The brown-coloured paint was considered an excellent solution to creating warm shadows on flesh tones. Other curiosities? Well, the pigment Carmine is made from crushed female Cochineal beetles from Costa Rica. And although lapis lazuli was used as a base exclusively for Ultramarine Blue, that paint is now made from a less expensive, more stable synthetic pigment. Not as glamourous in the telling, but oh!-so-much finer in the painting!

So much more to tell.... so little space, and no more time. But it must be told that one of Doug's most provocative moments was in the tender-loving introduction of his Winsor Newton #8, Series 7 sable watercolour brush given to him by his Mum 20-years ago and still a statement in perfection. We all silently (a few visibly) drooled as he demonstrated his #8. Ah! me. And this too can be yours, for a mere $120! But for heaven's sake, NEVER dip sable into acrylic paint or you'll have a 'done deal'! If you're fortunate enough to own such a treasure, always store it in it's wooden box with some mothballs.... for company and for obvious reasons!

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