Paintings from Schrieck to Weie: perceiving greens – or red, yellow and blue.

Activity: Talk or presentationLecture and oral contribution


Seventeenth century manuals on the making and use of green pigments or green paint describe caution against the dangers of decay and lack of permanence of some of the greens laboriously manufactured and applied in paintings in the artists’ studio. Despite warnings, artists continued to experiment and utilise the green colour in their compositions whether in illusionistic textures of leaves, landscapes or the crackling satin fabric of draperies in devotional shrines or genre paintings. Was then the notion of perception still in its infancy, as was the understanding of the function of the eye that perceives a composition, imagery was created in hitherto unseen quantities.
Landscape painting would not exist without an exorbitant use of a large variety of greens, either in glazes or as pastose and innovative dabbing’s of paint in rarely observed and poorly understood mixed media. Will our eye compensate for the flaws in the green hues when viewing a 400 years old aged painting and will current spectators create an intellectual compensation for its lack of intensity or presence? In 20th century art some greens may stay hardly unaltered against other modern pigments of red, yellow and blue which may fade partly or completely. How do we then perceive an originally colourful scenery within a narrow path through a majestic dense green forest?
This talk will reiterate some of the 17th century painters’ manuals on the making and utilisation of green paint and confront the recommendations with current reception of paintings by the Dutch painter Otto Marseus van Schrieck (ca. 1613-1678) and his contemporaries. This will be followed by a critical review of works by the Danish artist Edvard Weie (1879-1943) and his use of green colours and other modern pigments. We shall illuminate an example where the pictorial harmonies have been disrupted to such a degree that the connotation of the image and its narrative is jeopardised and now largely obscured compared to the original intent of the artist.
The question remains whether we understand the mechanisms and variations of the intensity of a green colour against the fugitive tints from other pigments of an artist’s pallet. If not, are we then unconsciously generating new perceptions and creating novel narratives as a consequence of our inability to understand the original interaction between form and materiality in a world full of seemingly perfect digital images of the current and the past? Will scientific analysis be necessary to unravel the variations in the greens, blues and reds before we will be able to fully understand the artistic intention of an analogue image in front of us on a gallery wall?
Period14 Jun 2018
Event titleSLSAeu conference 2018 - 'Green'
Event typeConference
LocationCopenhagen, DenmarkShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational