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Brown Earthy, neutral, understated and lovable
Browns are the earth from which everything grows, it is the rocks, solid and timeless, it is the trunks of the trees, reach hinge for the sky. Brown is not flashy, like red, nor attention seeking like bright yellows. Few colors are classified in the color index as brown because technically brown is always just a darker, more neutral orange or red, and many colors many people would think of as being brown are classified under red and orange. Sienna and Umber, however, are so important as industrial pigments that they and similar colors  were given a class name when the color index was first established.


Raw Umber PBr 7   ASTM   l
Chemical type and description
Inorganic iron oxide. The traditional earths are all color indexed under PBr 7 Raw Umber has been used since antiquity. It gets it's dark color from up to 25% manganese dioxide. Some varieties may also contain alumina and silica. These impurities give a wide range of colors from the greenish ones most often found in artist's materials to yellowish and even a violet-brown. One of the joys of making your own paints is the discovery of all the various gorgeous earth colors available on the market. Originally an Italian pigment (Umber is a corruption of the Italian for 'shadow' referring to it's darkness) but these days the best grades come from Cyprus. Raw Umber is a fast drier due to the manganese content, and makes a hard and fairly flexible oil paint
Toxicity
Manganese considered toxic. Do not breath dust.
Media suitability
Linseed oil,  Alkyd, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera, Encaustic, Fresco, Pastels, Chalk


Burnt Umber PBr 7   ASTM   l
Also known (in the trade) as Turkey Brown
Chemical type and description

Inorganic iron oxide. The result of calcining  Raw Umber. Excellent grades come from Italy where it originated, but the best grades come from Cyprus, hence the common trade description of 'Turkey Brown'.  The raw versions of this color were produced since  prehistoric times, but the burning to develop the color  was probably not started until the Roman era. Umber is said to mean 'shadow' , referring to the dark color. Industry uses huge amounts of this useful color and it is available in the trade in many color variants. The home paint maker is likely to use light (yellowish), mid (reddish) or cooler darker versions according to taste. The range of colors available in the pigment market is a revelation after the limited choices in most artist's materials ranges. All versions are very fast driers due to the high manganese content of all Umber's. They make hard and fairly flexible oil paints. Before the availability of special driers (also called siccatives) it was normal practice to use Umber as a small additive in many mixtures (or Lead White) to speed paint drying times. The old masters were very familiar with these sort of techniques for 'improving' the limited paints available to them. Suitable for use in all media.
Toxicity
Manganese is considered toxic. Do not breath dust.
Media suitability
Linseed oil,  Alkyd, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera, Encaustic, Fresco, Pastels, Chalk.


Raw Sienna PBr 7   ASTM   l
Also known as Italian Earth
Chemical type and description

Inorganic iron oxide. The best grades still are from Italy where it was first used in prehistoric times. Color is distinctly browner than Yellow Ochre and various shades range from quite yellowish to golden and quite brownish. Excellent all round pigment of great permanence and useful in all media. The roasting of the pigment, by the Roman era produced one of the most useful colors available to artist's in all situations so must be counted as one of the most significant events in pigment history. This produces a wide variety of colors by varying the temperature and length of calcining as well as the original pigment color making light browns to fiery reddish oranges of great beauty. Raw Sienna is an average to fast drier and makes a hard and fairly flexible oil paint. Suitable for use in all media.
Toxicity
Not considered toxic. Do not breath dust.
Media suitability
Linseed oil,  Alkyd, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera, Encaustic, Fresco, Pastels, Chalk.


Burnt Sienna PBr 7   ASTM   l
Also known as Italian Earth.
Chemical type and description

Inorganic iron oxide. The best grades come from Italy. There is a wide variety of colors available from the so-called 'half burnt' light browns to the fiery oranges beloved by artist's. Unfortunately there is a price difference for the best colors and corresponding ignorance on the part of some industrial suppliers so there is often difficulty in finding the very best colors. Often industrial users may prefer the less transparent redder browns and these find their way into artist's materials. It is worth searching, or even paying 'top dollar' to buy pigment from Winsor and Newton or another artist supply house that you know has supplies of the best pigment colors. It is also worth hunting down the many color variants as some are quite extraordinary. The development of the Burnt Sienna's was one of the great moments in pigment history comparable to the synthesization of Ultramarine, the mixture of these 2 colors it should be noted also produces some of the most delicate and beautiful neutrals possible. Burnt Sienna is an average to fast drier and makes a hard and fairly flexible oil paint. Suitable for use in all media.
Toxicity
Not considered toxic. Do not breath dust.
Media suitability
Linseed oil,  Alkyd, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera, Encaustic, Fresco, Pastels, Chalk.


Mars Brown  PBr 6   ASTM   l
Chemical type and description

Inorganic synthetic iron oxide. Usually a blend of synthetic iron oxides (PY 42, PR101, PBk 11) Produced in a huge range of shades it is used more in industry than by artist's. Usefully extends the range of browns to the artist and makes available dusky browns and smoky brown types of colors that are less easy to find in natural earths. Also the pigments are more likely to be consistent from batch to batch than natural product. The darker shades can replace the toxic Burnt Umber for those with sensitivities to manganese or simply prefer non-toxic colors for various purposes. Mars Brown however often lacks the beautiful transparent undertones loved in the Burnt Sienna's and Umber's. Transparent synthetic iron oxides are available but are usually more expensive than the standard versions. Like all iron oxides, Mars Brown is an average to fast drier and  makes a hard and fairly flexible oil paint. Suitable for use in all media.
Toxicity
Not considered toxic. Do not breath dust.
Media suitability
Linseed oil,  Alkyd, Acrylic, Watercolor, Gouache, Tempera, Encaustic, Fresco, Pastels, Chalk.


Other Browns Let the buyer beware
Van Dyke Brown also known as Cassel Earth or Cologne Earth

This disastrous pigment was an almost peaty earth with a percentage of organic matter and bitumen. It fades, causes oil paint to crack or go dark and should always be avoided as a 17th century experiment gone wrong.

Asphaltum, also sold as 'Mummy'.
Literally a tar product this color caused paintings to crack and generally self destruct. Used to get an imagined old master look it should always be avoided. As the pigment known as 'Mummy" also was high in bitumen the 2 pigments (equally bad) were often given each others names. Avoid at all cost.

Mummy, also sold as Asphaltum and as Egyptian Brown
This pigment, mostly bituminous in make up caused paintings to crack and self destruct. It was literally Egyptian mummies broken up and ground into a pigment and sometimes sold under other names to avoid squeamishness over painting with dead bodies. Artist's conveniently ignored the gruesome origins but an outbreak of disease in London was (probably erroneously, but fortunately) blamed on the imported foreign (and arab) artist's pigment. Within a short time it was banned in England and the rest of Europe soon followed. Never to be used again, hopefully.

Brown Ochre
Often a dull variety of Yellow Ochre or less commonly, Raw Sienna. These days it may also be a form of Mars brown. An example of a name of convenience that can apply to many things, however all of these sources have excellent properties as pigments and may be used without fear.


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References
Alberti, L B,    On Painting    1435 (Penguin Classics)
Cellini, B,    The Life Of Benvenuto Cellini,    finished 1562 but not published until 1730 (Heron)
Cennini, C d'A,    The Craftsman's Handbook.    1437 (Dover)
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Eastlake, Sir C L,    Materials For A History Of Oil Painting,    1847 (Dover)
Feller, R L,    Artists Pigments    1986 (National Gallery Of Art / Cambridge University)
Gettens, R J, and Stout, G L,      Painting Materials: A Short Encyclopedia,      1942 (Dover)
Gottsegen, M D,    A Manual Of Painting Materials And Techniques,    1987 (Harper & Row)
Maire, F,    Colors: What They Are And What To Expect Of Them,    1910 (Drake)
Mayer, R,   The Artists Handbook Of Materials And Techniques,    fifth edition 1991  (Faber & Faber)
Merrifield, Mrs. M P,    Medieval And Renaissance Treatises On The Arts Of Painting    1849 (Dover)
Muther, R,    The History Of Painting From The Fourth Century To The Early Nineteenth Century,    1907 (Putnam)
Parkhurst, D B,    The Painter In Oil   1898 (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard)
Patton, T C,    Pigment Handbook,    1973 (Wiley)
Porter, N      Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary,      1913 (Merriam)
Pliny, The Elder (Gaius Plinius),    Natural History,    77 AD (Penguin Classics)
Roy, A      Artist's Pigments: A Handbook Of Their History And Characteristics,      1994 (Oxford University Press)
Taubs, F,    A Guide To Traditional And Modern Painting Methods,    1963 (Thames & Hudson)
Theophilus,   On Divers Arts,    1125 (Dover)
Various,    Encyclopedia Britannica,    fifteenth edition 1981  (Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc)
Various,    Paint And Painting,   1982,  (Winsor & Newton / The Tate Gallery)
Various,    The Artist's Colormen's Story,    1984 (Winsor & Newton)
Vasari, G,   The Lives Of The Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors And Architects,    1568 (Penguin Classics)


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