Well, I am not about to start a new controversy. However, I have had a number of experiences that I feel are thought provoking. Post your thoughts if any of this strikes a cord.
I have been taking Scott Nickerson's Master Class at Colorest for over a year now. In class we have recreated master works by Lefebvre, Cot, Bierstadt, Vermeer, and Bougouereau. We have visited the Met to see the original and have used various printed references. This has been fascinating, or frustrating if you wish, because every source for the same painting has a different color cast and treatment. Further, since the originals are old and subject to aging and discoloration through various varnishing and restorations over the years, who knows what the original may have looked like.
This reminds me of the story about the cleaning of the ceiling and walls of the Sistine Chapel, which revealed Michaelango's paintings in quite a different light. Prior to the cleaning the paintings had assumed quite a muted (aka dirty), dull color pallet. Once they were cleaned of the accumulated candle smoke to reveal painting done with very bright intense colors, many in the art establishment were shocked and dismayed. Whole schools of painting had grown up advocating dull grey painting techniques to mimic the great Michaelangelo!
With each one of our master paintings, we had to contend with similar issues. We could look at all of the reference material, Scott would give suggestions based on his knowledge of the painter and of similar paintings and techniques from the period of the work. However, in the end, each of us had to make up our own mind and develop a consistent color strategy for our self. This was perhaps the most fascinating and valuable part of the whole process.
To illustrate this color dilemma I will give some illustrations from our current class project which is recreating William Bougoereau's work "Harvest". Initially, we had three sources, a large poster, and the images of the painting on two different calendars. I posted a photograph of the poster in my Blog post of 5/2/12, which I have re posted below.
Scott had another Bougoereau painting that contained the same pot. However in that painting the pot color was much warmer and copper looking. Scott suggested we use that pot. I said we were painting "the best of Bougoereau".
As the painting progressed, Scott suggested that I replace my rosy red complexion with a more yellow green tone. I was having trouble seeing it. But then, my trusty iPad came to the rescue!!!
I discovered an extensive library of Bougoereau painting in the library of the Art Authority App. Below I posted the Art Authority image of harvest.
So I am tweaking my painting in this direction. It is not complete, but here is the current version.
As you view this, remember that you are looking at photos which change whatever image you are looking in ways you can not entirely guess. So, as I said in my title to this Blog post, "Color, Colour - Real or Imagined", you be the judge!
In future posts, I will be discussing various strategies for planning the color composition of a painting. These will be based on the color gamut definition of color space that I introduced in my Blog post of 5/2/12, along with the color pool approach to painting I introduced in my post on 3/25/12. I will also post a wrap up when I finally finish "Harvest" which is my project to recreate an old master painting using my thoroughly modern paint pallet based on the Golden OPEN Modern Color Paint Set. Keep on painting!