“It is not the form that dictates the color, but the color that brings out the form.” Hans Hoffman (from Brainyquote)
The deep rich brown known as Van Dyck Brown is both a paint color and a photographic process. The name is derived from the paintings of early seventeenth century painter Anthony Van Dyck. Van Dyck was a prolific portrait painter whose talents were nurtured by mentors and fellow Flemish painters, Rubens and Frans Haals. Van Dyck’s portraits are noted for the rich brown shadows present in all. Van Dyck’s portraits were very popular and sought after by the royalty of England and France. Van Dyck spent time in commissions for the Pope and the nobility of Italy. Van Dyck achieved great financial success and enjoyed a lavish lifestyle but died at the age of 42.
According to Winsor-Newton, Van Dyck Brown is an earth pigment and can vary greatly between brands. Testing of brands is advised. Winsor Newton states Van Dyck Brown was, “Originally made from a lignite or bituminous earth containing iron oxide found in Kassel or Cologne, Germany, it was known as Cassel Earth and Cologne Earth,” and is permanent, lightfast and transparent.” Stories differ as when the name officially changed but was sometime before the mid-nineteenth century.
A photographic process known as Van Dyck Brown Print Process was developed in 1842 by British astronomer, Sir John Herschel. The process is named for the print color similarity to the paint color. The ingredients for the process can be obtained for those adventurous enough to try this on their own. A video is linked below on the process. Van Dyck Brown prints are an ethereal haunting brown very different from the bluer prints of traditional printing.
With Van Dyck Brown beautiful, striking shadows are a breeze. Or in photography, ghostly, mysterious effects can be created in the processing to achieve a sense of other-worldliness. Van Dyck Brown does not appear to have the problems of Burnt Umber, so go ahead, pour it own. However, caution is advised. A little bit of shadowy mystery could easily become a large bit of depression.
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