An Artist, a Colour #1: Payne’s Gray

(References: The Armitt website, Wikipedia )

I’ve always thought that, for a painter, to link his name with a colour, it’s a wonderful way to be remembered.

The name of William Payne, painter, is linked to a beautiful bluish Grey.
He was born in London in March 1760, the son of a coal merchant (a sign of the Fate?) After he was appointed draughtsman by the Board of Ordnance, and worked in the Tower of London, he followed an apprenticeship of surveying and mapping.

In the 1783, he was promoted by the board and sent to Plymouth Dock, as one of a team concerned with its defence against the French. There, Payne began his artistic career. From 1786 to 1790, Payne exhibited West England views at the Royal Academy, getting the praises of  its president, Sir Joshua Reynolds. Then, his work was engraved and published and he made long journeys in Wales and West England. By the end of 1798, he lived in London.

Coast Scene Morning

Payne painted in watercolours and oils. He experimented new methods in watercolours, enhanced the resources of this art, especially in the rendering of sunlight and atmosphere. Among his innovations:

“splitting the brush to give forms of foliage, dragging the tints to give texture to his foregrounds, and taking out the forms of lights by wetting the surface and rubbing with bread and rag”.

He also abandoned the use of outline with the pen. His method was not only new and effective, but could be learnt without much difficulty, and he soon became the most fashionable drawing-master in London.

Hovel near Yalmton, Devon

But the invention by which he is best known is a neutral tint called Payne’s Grey (Hexadecimal triplet: #40404F), composed of Indigo, Raw Sienna and Lake.

In 1809, Payne relaunched himself as an exhibiting artist, working in both oil and watercolour. Moreover, he was elected as an associate of the Society of Painters in Water-Colours. Trough the four years of his connection with the society he sent seventeen drawings to their exhibitions. In 1811 and 1819 he widened his subject matter by making tours of the Lake District.
The Payne’s popularity yet slowly began to decline and he was forgotten before he died in London in August 1830.

The Smuggler's Cave

William Payne is important in Drawing History, because  he was one of the first “draughtsmen” to abandon mere topographic representation for a more poetical treatment of landscape painting. Also, he was one of the first watercolourists that experimented new painting techniques. So, we could be consider Payne a pioneer of the modern Watercolour’s Art.


About liviusnotes

Architect, Graphic Illustrator, Drawing Teacher, Gentleman.
This entry was posted in Art, Colour, Watercolour and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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