Artists Oil Paint Manufacturers

This post is about three small but incredible artisan oil paint manufacturers.


Michael Harding

Firstly we have Michael Harding, a manufacturer of paint and mediums he started making paints in 1982 while studying fine art.

Coming from that background he makes painter's paint, all the colours are functional and practical, they are pure pigment and oil, heavily loaded with pigment. Like myself and many others he was inspired by Rembrandt, and that gives me the opportunity to sneak in a Rembrandt self portrait below, a close up which shows his unbelievable ability to manipulate paint to catch light.


I will leave the rest Michael himself -  "I had always been inspired by Rembrandt's paintings in the National Gallery and I wanted to try and recreate his paint effects and glorious colours in my own work

Not surprisingly, after a number of aborted attempts, I realised something was missing. It wasn’t just his genius that I lacked but the actual materials I was using. They would not behave in the same way as the paint in his work, and the colours had a totally different appearance.

My quest began. I was determined to get what I needed - oil paint that was of the same quality and consistency as that used by the Old Masters. After a number of months doing intensive research I turned my flat into a small oil paint factory.

There were various experiments before I hit on the right consistency and then gradually the hard work began to pay off, I produced my first paints and suddenly found myself in business. Almost immediately I started supplying the Royal College of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Word spread and demand for my paint grew at an alarming rate."



 "This man who never painted, will contribute more to the painters of tomorrow than what we will have accomplished, all the modern painters together".     - Salvador Dali about Jacques Blockx

In this guide to our manufacturers, we have the painter Michael Harding, the historian Rublev and we have the chemist Jacques Blockx.

Pigments and paint changed radically and forever around 1820 when through the use of chemistry, new, very strong and permanent colours started to be extracted from coal tar. In 1865 Jacques Blockx set up his business, then his son Jacques Blockx II took over, then Jacques Blockx III, and you can guess what happened next, yes Jacques Blockx IV.

Over 150 years of absolutely perfecting the chemistry and manufacture of paint. All their paint is stoneground, most with poppyseed oil, they have remained small and have amongst all the chemistry never forgotten the paint, and texture of Blockx paint is world renowned. In particular I feel their Cadmium paints are completely unrivalled the extreme power and opacity.

It is entirely possible given the location and time period that Van Gogh could have used Blockx paints, however there is no hard evidence to suggest that. Still might as well put one of Vincent's pictures in, genius.



Rublev Paints - Natural Pigments

Based in California, again here we have a group of people who have real integrity in what they do, their approach is more historical, and they are interested in recreating the paints of the old masters and will go to amazing lengths to source the rarest pigments.

Some of the earth paints (a paint pigment made from natural ore, ochres, sienna, etc.) they make are pretty much exactly the same as the Italian renaissance painters would have used, with the pigments coming from the same quarries.

Their lead whites are unrivalled bringing back amazing paints like crystal white, which is a lead white ground in walnut oil with the addition of ground lead crystal, this refracts and captures the light in an amazing way, this was first used in the 16th century and long forgotten until Rublev brought it back. It is an overused phrase but a lot of these paints are unique and only available from Rublev.

They produce historic mediums, using recipes from the past, for example their Velaquez medium, that gives me an excuse to pop another great painting in! Please see the famous Velaquez pope below, I am not sure if this would look as sinister to me if I hadn't seem Francis Bacon's version, but still I think it is an incredible bit of history, remember this man was the powerful in the world at the time..

Rublev -  "We specialize in supplying artists' materials that were used in historical painting since prehistoric times up to and including the nineteenth century.

We constantly search for materials and products of the finest quality so that we can bring them direct to you from the source. To do so, we obtain minerals from mines in Afghanistan, Chile, Russia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, to name a few places, processing these into natural pigments. We purchase resins, gums and plants from India, Kenya and Malaysia to make natural varnishes and painting mediums."

I could write so much more about these paints.... and I have done! Please look in the store if only to learn some more about what they do.












James Holman
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