Colorful Fridays–Misunderstood, Mispronounced Exploding Yellow

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“What a horrible thing yellow is.”  Edgar Degas (from

Few paints are as controversial as the much-maligned yellow known as Aureolin.  Artists either love it or hate it.  Aureolin will turn a greenish brown eventually but not everyone believes this is a bad thing.  This greenish brown can be quite useful in many mixes, especially in recreating the colors of nature.  Aureolin is never a substitute for the more brilliant yellows of Lemon or Cadmium.  Perhaps therein lies the controversy.  Expectations to be something it’s not, lead some to shun this highly transparent yellow.

Aureolin is also known as cobalt yellow and can be very expensive.  The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston states Aureolin is “composed of cobaltinitrite.”  The MFA also says Aureolin was “discovered by N.W. Fisher in Germany in 1848.”  It began use as an artist’s pigment in 1852.  Aureolin was first sold in the Untied States in 1861.  For more information see the MFA’s website at the link.  Aureolin is most valuable as a glazing color as it has a high transparency rating.  It can be quite useful in botanical painting.

The fade to brown character of Aureolin has led one artist to post a dire warning stating in no uncertain terms that Aureolin should never be used by any artist, at any time.  The warning also states tubes of Aureolin could “explode.”  Verification of this claim was not available from other sources.  It seems a bit over the top to think any reputable manufacturer would knowingly sell exploding paint.  However, caution is advised.

If unconcerned about explosions in the studio or high expectations of brilliant yellow from a greenish brown yellow, then Aureolin can be highly useful.  The fading to greenish brown of Aureolin is less acute in oil than watercolors.   Before you rush out to buy a new tube of Aureolin, check out the Talking Dictionary’s pronunciation.  That way, you will be understood correctly when you call to report the exploding tubes of paint in your studio. For some reason, the tube I’ve had for years has never exploded.  Oh well, one can always hope.

Check out how these artists make use of Aureolin:

If you would like to name your horse, Aureolin, too late, it has already been done:

I wonder if announcers say the horse’s name correctly?  Aureolin Gulf may be an exploding horse.

Author: MaryGwyn

Artist-Art Educator-Art in Healthcare

4 thoughts on “Colorful Fridays–Misunderstood, Mispronounced Exploding Yellow”

  1. Having discovered Blockx paints a few years back I fell in love with Aureolin and found there are many derivations of this maligned pigment! Thanks for this post!

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