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Painters’ Colours, Oils, and Varnishes: A Practical Manual by George H. Hurst, F.C.S. – published in 1892

Painters’ Colours, Oils, and Varnishes: A Practical Manual by George H. Hurst, F.C.S. Published in 1892 by Charles Griffin & Company, Limited, Exeter Street, Strand, London

I love this book and, I want to share some of what is in it, with links, so that the information can be used by artists and people doing various crafts.  The old information is fascinating and, coupled with what is available today – it is usable!  Be safe!  Be careful!  Most of this is not safe for children.  Please, always  keep safety in mind.

IMG_0088As I get going on this little project, I will add excerpts and links below.  Please feel free to comment, add and send links – the more information and the easier it becomes to find it, the better for everyone!

I am going to try to update this post regulary, with more excerpts and more links, as I work my way through this book!

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Chapter I:  Introductory. Colour, Colours, Paints and Varnishes.

from page 4, “Cause of Colour in Coloured Bodies. — The actual reasons why bodies such as vermilion, magenta, or emerald green are coloured, it is almost impossible to investigate in the present state of knowledge, since the cause, whatever it may be, must be due to the molecular construction of the different compounds about which very little is known…”

  • Geology is the key word here.  Geologists have been working to increase our knowledge base of Earth in general and specifically, in this case, our knowledge of pigments. Here is a great place to read about colour, Dust to Dust:  A Geology of Color by Heidi Gustafson  –  if you like playing in the dirt, foraging for rocks and then doing something with them, Heidi Gustafson’s website has some great information in it!

from page 5, “Colour Theories. — Two theories of colour are in use to explain the coloured effects of light.  The old theory… Brewster… The more modern theory, first broached by Young and more fully developed by Helmholtz…”

  • Sir David Brewster’s (1871-1868) work on colour theory is from the 1830’s.  His work “On a new analysis of solar light” was written in 1831 and published by Charles Tait, and Bell & Bradfute; and T. Cadell, London.  One place I have found credit for Sir David Brewster’s theories on the perception of colour is in an article by Peter John Brownlee, “Color Theory and the Perception of Art“, published in 2009 by The University of Chicago Press Journals.
  • Thomas Young, M.D. (1773-1829), was a scientist studying human perception of colour and in 1802 wrote a treatise speculating on how the human eye works to perceive colour.  There is also a lecture series by Thomas Young, “A Course of Lectures on Natural Philosophy and the Mechanical Arts” which was published in London by Joseph Johson, St. Paul’s Church Yard, in 1807.
  • Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894), continued work on the development of Thomas Young’s theories of human colour perception.  This work is known as the “Young-Hemholtz Theory” and furthers Thomas Young’s theories as to how our eyes actually work to perceive color.
  • This body of knowledge has been expanded upon for more than the 250 years shown in these writings and continues to grow today.  Here are just a few examples of the psychology of colour perception that are a little more recent.

from page 6, “Colours. — … the term “colours” is used in two senses — first, to express the sensation which light of various kinds… excites on the retina of the eye, and which sensation is purely functional; second, … [the] imparting [of] colour to other bodies;  such bodies are known as colouring matters and may be divided into two groups, dyestuffs and pigments….”

  • sensations of light, through rather than on the retina, continue to be studied by the scientific and psychological communities today.  This is fascinating research and the McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas has some open access resources on this subject.
  • dyestuffs, as referred to by George Hurst, are materials which provide ‘soluable’ material that can be used to add colour to another item.  In other words, dyeing or staining, imparts temporary colour to other items.  If you have access to a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition and history of the word ‘dyestuff’ is fascinating.  Most libraries have a copy of the OED and may also allow access to the online version.
  • pigments, then, as defined by George Hurst in 1892, are ‘nonsoluable’ materials which provide a more permanent, opaque colour to things like paint.  Most of the chapters in this book are about pigments, where to find them, what to find them in, how to extract them and, how to use them.

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Chapter II:  White Pigments

Chapter III:  Red Pigments

Chapter IV:  Yellow and Orange Pigments

Chapter V:  Green Pigments

Chapter VI:  Blue Pigments

Chapter VI:  Brown Pigments

Chapter VII:  Black Pigments

Chapter IX:  Lakes

Chapter X:  Assay and Analysis of Pigments

Chapter XI:  Colour and Paint Machinery

Chapter XII:  Paint Vehicles

Chapter XIII:  Driers

Chapter XIV:  Varnishes

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A related post, and… a very interesting one!

Colour Theory from 1882

book cover   title page

The link takes you to a high resolution copy of this amazing 800+ page book.