Vladimir Egorovich Makovsky (Russian, 1846-1920)
"It is evident from the study of the work of the early and mediavel masters of painting that some of the greatest achievements have been attained by very simple means and by a palette far more limited in range than our own.
Many painters of to-day and of recent times, to whom the whole modern range has been available, have deliberately limited their palette to a small group of pigments which they have habitually used, finding more freedom in that limitation than in the use of a fuller range. Portrait painters have especially practised this limiting of the colour range. The necessities of their work, in which character and form are more essential than elaboration of colour, have conduced to simplification of the colour problem. The fact that the portrait painters' work is done mostly indoors under a North light also tends to limit the range both of colour and tone.
If one examines critically the recorded methods of any of the masters of painting one finds, both in craft-methods and in the selection of the pigments used, a continuous tradition of simplification and economy.
The methods of the masters of portraiture have perhaps tended to simplification and directness more than other kinds of painting, owing to the necessities of the work, which must be done with speed.
In earlier days, when the available range of colour in pigments was far smaller than that provided by modern chemistry, the limitation of the palette was determined by the smallness of the available supply. What was then a necessity is not so now.
Velasquez and Rembrandt had six or seven available colours where we have a bewildering list of dozens offered by the colour makers.
It is obvious that in the art of portrait-painting, where the range of colour is limited and the work comparatively simple in design, many of the new powers of colour could be ignored or rejected without much loss."¹
¹ Frank Morley Fletcher, Colour-Control: The Organization and Control of the Artist's Palette, (Faber & Faber, Ltd., London, 1936), pp. 16-18.