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National Gallery: Making Colour

This summer, the National Gallery in London presents Making Colour,the UK’s first exhibition of  its kind invites visitors on an artistic and scientific voyage of discovery.

18 June – 7 September 2014

Sainsbury Wing The National Gallery London

Making Colour,offers visitors an exceptional opportunity to discover the wide-ranging materials used to create colour in paintings and other works of art. Using the National Gallery’s own paintings and loans from major UK cultural institutions, the exhibition traces the history of making colour in Western paintings, from the Middle Ages to the end of the 19th century.

The exhibition brings together the worlds of art and science to explain how artists overcame the technical challenges involved in creating colour.  Making Colour shows the material problems faced by artists in achieving their painterly aims, the breakthroughs they struggled for, and the difficulties they faced in creating works of art that were both beautiful and enduring.
The exhibition shows the central importance of colour to painting, but also incorporates minerals along with textiles, ceramics and glass, demonstrating the material connections in these sister arts.

The exhibition begins by examining how theories of colour – such as an awareness of primary colour, or of the colour spectrum – have influenced painters’ use of pigments, and their quest for new materials. Visitors then journey from lapis lazuli to cobalt blue, ancient vermilion to bright cadmium red, through yellow, orange, purple and verdigris to deep green viridian in a series of colour-themed rooms. Finally, they enter a dazzling central room devoted to gold and silver.

Making Colour is illustrated at every stage by National Gallery paintings, complemented by selected objects on loan, such as Joseph Mallord William Turner’s paintbox. The exhibition includes Claude Monet’s ‘Lavacourt under Snow‘ (about 1878–81) on display with lapis lazuli figurines from the British Museum and the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Anthony van Dyck’s ‘Lady Elizabeth Thimbelby and her Sister‘ (1637) and elaborate majolica plates from the British Museum help to illustrate the story of yellow. In the red room Degas’sCombing the Hair (‘La Coiffure’)‘ (about 1896) and Masaccio’s ‘Saints Jerome and John the Baptist‘ (about 1428–9) are displayed alongside fragments of beautiful crimson velvet brocade on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The exhibition is complemented by a scientific experiment that introduces a new world of contemporary and scientific thought on colour. It deals with human colour perception, and the degree to which it is individually variable. It will also consider the ways in which the brain processes different visual information – for example in lighting paintings – and the impact that this has on our perception of colour.

Tickets and opening hours

There are several ways to book your tickets for the exhibition: advance booking  is recommended.

  • You can book tickets online
  • By phone:  0844 847 2409 (booking fee)  International callers +44 161 425 8777
  • In person from the Advance Ticket Desk in the Sainsbury Wing until 5.15pm (8.15pm on Fridays)

The museum is open Daily from 10.00 am to 6.00 pm and on Fridays the museum stays open til 9.00 pm. For more information visit: http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/

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