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A History of Exotic Colours and Poisonous Pigments

This lecture by Lynne Gibson MA, which lasts one hour followed by a Q&A, tells the stories of alchemy and adventure behind some our most beautiful and colourful paintings.

Cornelis Pietersz Bega 1632-1664 “The Alchemist”

In our modern world it’s easy to take colour for granted. Yet before organic chemistry, the most desirable pigments were often exotic or poisonous. Alchemists prepared deadly ‘King’s Yellow’ and ‘ruby of arsenic’. ‘Moorish Gold’ was concocted, according to a 12th century monk, from basilisk powder ground with human blood!

Small wonder artists kept their paint recipes closely-guarded in ‘Books of Secrets’.

Lynne Gibson has held posts at the Universities of Sussex and Bristol. As a professional artist specialising in oil painting and etching, her work has been exhibited widely and used in a range of publications.

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