Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Wrapping Up the Whites

The last two of the four most common white pigments is Zinc White and it derivative Chinese White.
Zinc White is made from pure zinc oxide and was developed in the late 1700s. It is used mainly in oil painting for over painting and glazes. Zinc White is more transparent than the other whites.
Because it is relatively slow drying, Zinc White is useful for highlighting, as it will not dry faster than the color it was painted over. Because Zinc White is so "clean" it is very valuable for making tints with other colors. Tints made with Zinc White show every nuance of a color's undertones to a greater degree than tints made with other whites.
The lack of pliancy in Zinc Whites can cause cracks in paintings after only a few years if this color is used in excess. It would be a poor choice for painting a winterscape having large expanses of white, because Zinc White dries to a brittle film that would crack. According to
Pigments Through The Ages, some artists during the late 1890's used Zinc White as a ground for their oil paintings. They wanted to utilize the brilliance of this color, but did not realize its long term disadvantage. After a period of years, all of these paintings developed cracks where older works painted on more traditional grounds remained free from cracks.

Chinese White is a derivative of Zinc White and is used in watercolor. It was created by Winsor and Newton in 1834 as a superior alternative to Zinc White. It is heated at much higher temperatures than the late eighteenth century variety, which makes it more dense. The name 'Chinese White' is said to have come from the oriental porcelain that was very popular in Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Today, Chinese White is synonymous for Zinc White in watercolor.

Source: Pigments Through The Ages


Manon Doyle said...

Hi Peggi,
Thanks for all the info on the whites. It's very interesting and useful information. Funny how little I know about these whites. The downside about zinc white is particularly informative.......who knew it could crack if used in a widespread area? Great posts!

Peggi Habets Studio said...

Thanks, Manon. I learned so much by researching whites. I'm anxious to try lead white (the less toxic substitute) with oils and to experiment with zinc and titanium as tints.

jeff f said...

I was reading your review on whites and I would like to add that Zinc should be avoided. It has a tendency to crack and become brittle with age, and it does not take very long. This is why so many 19 century paintings are in such bad shape.

This is an article released by scientists at the Smithsonian's Museum Conservation Institute exposes long-term problems with zinc white in oil paint


Peggi Habets Studio said...

Thank you for posting the link to the article, very interesting. I always thought zinc cracked when used too thickly or too abundantly on a painting, but it seems that isn't always the case.