Inquiring reader: This is the second post by historical paint expert Patrick Baty of Papers and Paints, who has carried out extensive research into the use of pigments in architectural and decorative paintings. He has kindly answered a question about the paint color “invisible green,” which was left on his previous post, Painting a House During the Regency Era.
Invisible Green was a favourite of Humphrey Repton, the famous landscape designer of the Georgian/Regency eras. (The image above shows his trellises painted in a dark, rich green.)
William Mason, in his poem “The English Garden” published in 1783, provides us with a very early reference to the Picturesque treatment of fences and to the colour that became know as “Invisible Green”. He describes in verse the preparation of a dark green oil paint based on yellow ochre and black with white lead. Great care was required in mixing the right colour:
‘Tis thine alone to seek what shadowy hues
Tinging thy fence may lose it in the lawn…”
and he concludes by saying:
the paint is spread, the barrier pales retire,
snatched as by magic from the gazer’s view”.
In 1808, James Crease, the Bath colourman, described “Invisible Green” as a dark green:
so denominated from its being proper for covering gates and rails in parks, pleasure grounds, etc. by rendering them in a measure invisible at a distance on account of its approximation to the hue of the vegetation”.
In 1829, T.H. Vanherman, the London colourman, described Invisible Green as follows:
“The Invisible Green is one of the most pleasant colours for fences, and all work connected with buildings, gardens, or pleasure grounds, as it displays a richness and solidity, and also harmonizes with every object, and is a back-ground and foil to the foliage of fields, trees, and plants, as also to flowers.”
One of my early projects was at Uppark, where the young Emma Hamilton is alleged to have danced naked on the dining room table. The wonderful Lucy Inglis has written very well in her blog Georgian London about the concept of prostitution in the eighteenth century in Frances Barton – Alimony and Acting: The Life of Nosegay Fan.
More information on this topic:
- Finishes for 18th century and early 19th century fences
- The Diary Maid and the Master of Uppark
- Painting a House During the Regency Era: Q&A With Colourman Patrick Baty
Second image by Sir Humprhy Repton of a garden building for the Royal Pavillion at Brighton. The design was not used.