rough seas (berliner blau)
Berliner Blau pigment and acrylic medium on canvas
100 x 100 cm
excerpt from "Rough Sees,"
a text collaboration between
Elizabeth McTernan & Bennett Sims:
"Discovered in 1706 in landlocked Berlin, Prussian Blue, or Berliner Blau, was the first synthetic pigment. It was created by accident: a paint maker was trying to concoct red cochineal dye, but the potash he used had been contaminated with animal blood. The compound iron hexacyanoferrate in the blood reacted with the potash and iron sulfate in his mix, creating iron ferrocyanide. This is the same compound that gives cyanotypes their blue pigment. The new hue was quickly adopted by painters throughout Europe. Berliner Blau’s earliest documented use in painting is Pieter van der Werff’s The Entombment of Christ (1709), where it is used to color Mary’s veil. Today, in Google Maps, Berliner Blau is the basis for the digital hue depicting oceans. The monochrome blue of the water is a whitened version of the physical pigment. In its raw form, Berliner Blau pigment is silty, fine, and vulnerable to breath. It is easily locked in with acrylic medium, smearing on canvas and drying hard as a screen. It is monochromatic but lacks a screen’s smoothness. Taking on the warp and weft of the canvas, it is inevitably textured, choppy, rough."