THE METHODS AND MATERIALS OF MARTIN JOHNSON HEADE
ELIZABETH LETO FULTON
The palette Heade used during his early years was limited to what was available in the second quarter of the 19th century. This range is exemplified in Portrait of a Man from the 1840s, in which his palette consisted of lead white, bone black, red ocher, yellow ocher, and Prussian blue. Browns were mixed from these above-mentioned pigments. The greens in the painting, as in other Heade paintings, were a mixture of yellows and blues rather than distinct green pigments. Heade's choice for green may have resulted from a lack of availability of green pigments in the early 19th century, but he often continued the practice of mixing blue and yellow even after a variety of synthetic greens came on the market in midcentury.
By the 1850s Heade used a wider variety of pigments. As they became available, Heade used synthetic greens and continued using mixtures of yellows and blues. In our study of Rocks in New England, we detected the relatively “new” pigment emerald green (1820s) as well as artificial ultramarine, introduced to his palette in these early landscapes. Another pigment found in this painting, which Heade started to use by the 1850s, was a transparent, organic, resinous brown. The specific identity of this pigment is unknown at this time. The earliest use of cadmium yellow in our study is found in the gold crucifix necklace in Mary Rebecca Clark, which also contains the earliest use of vermilion as well as a zinc-containing pigment, probably zinc white.
As mentioned earlier, Heade began to use new colors and glazing techniques in The Swing—Children in the Woods. In the glazes here, we see for the first time in our study Heade's use of the transparent pigments (fig. 15) such as a red lake as well as an application of Prussian blue. In this painting, we also found evidence of barium chromate. In later paintings, the yellows Heade widely used were barium chromate, strontium chromate, lead chromate, and zinc chromate. Other yellow and green pigments found only occasionally in the study were viridian and zinc yellow. Later paintings, such as “Heliodore's Woodstar” and a Pink Orchid also tested positive for cobalt yellow, which was mixed with Prussian blue to produce the cool green seen in the leaves of the orchid.
After the early 1860s, Heade generally did not change his palette. Vase of Mixed Flowers demonstrates the widest variety of pigments in any one painting in our study. In this painting Heade also continued the practice of glazing rather than mixing to produce odd color combinations (fig. 16), as seen in a cross section from the diamond pattern of the purple-brown background, where a dark red glaze was applied over an olive green paint mixture.
The results of all the analyses for the pigments are presented in appendix 3.