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Adolphe Monticelli: The Materials and Techniques of an Unfashionable Artist

Kate Stonor and Rachel Morrison
Technical Bulletin Volume 33, 2012


Monticelli has long fallen from favour in art historical circles but was, in his time, admired by the young Cézanne, and later provided great inspiration for Van Gogh. Though we may no longer appreciate Monticelli’s aesthetic, his materials and techniques are of interest today because of their influence on these important figures. Study of the works in the National Gallery Collection, which span the 1870s and 80s, has shown an extraordinary consistency in the artist’s choice of pigments, so much so that two ‘fakes’ are thought to have been identified. The artist can be seen to favour a very specific palette which includes old fashioned pigments, such as verdigris in preference to viridian, possibly due to his interest in emulating Old Master painting.

Monticelli is said to have been a loyal user of Lefranc paints and systematic sampling of his relatively simple pigment mixtures allows inferences to be made regarding the possible content of the tube paints he was using and the influence commercial paint formulations had on artists’ working in the second half of the nineteenth century.

By contrast to his use of ready prepared tube paints, Monticelli, who suffered poverty throughout this period, does not appear to have used commercially produced supports. His works at the National Gallery are all on unprimed, re-used panels probably made from old furniture. Limited organic analysis has also been undertaken on his paintings and this suggests that the artist may have sealed the panels prior to painting and mixed additional medium into his tube paints. Several of his works have marked drying defects and this also has consequences for their conservation.


Adolphe Monticelli, Vincent van Gogh, supports, panel preparation, painting technique, medium, varnish, Lefranc et Cie, commercial tube paints, pigments: lead white, zinc white, Prussian blue, French ultramarine, cobalt blue, cerulean blue, Naples yellow, chrome yellow, yellow ochre, verdigris, green earth, cobalt green, red lake, yellow lake, Indian yellow, extenders, fakes

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Stonor, K., Morrison, R. 'Adolphe Monticelli: The Materials and Techniques of an Unfashionable Artist'. National Gallery Technical Bulletin Vol 33, pp 50–72.

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