Friday, 9 September 2016

Winsor and Newtons Artists Watercolours

Having recently posted on Holbein it struck me I'd never covered Winsor and Newton in detail. By this I don't mean an analysis of all the individual paints but an overview of the paint range, in this case the artists water colours. In addition to the artists range W & N have the well-regarded second line Cotman but that is outside the scope of the present post. 


 This and the following illustration show the new metal tubes introduced quite recently.

The tube sizes, left to right are 37ml (limited range), 14 ml, and 5 ml. Also available are half, full size pans and a limited range in giant pans.

One of the limited edition sets of 5 ml tubes of which there are two. Expensive.

Winsor & Newton were started in 1832 by a scientist, William Winsor and an artist Henry Newton at 38 Rathbone Place, London. In 1837 they introduced the first glycerine based moist watercolours and patented the screw cap tube in 1844.  For many years they have been the standard at which others are judged and this is still partly the case although they are under attack by, especially, the American company Daniel Smith. Handprint while in general claiming the American makes, all much more recent,  are better than the long-established, mainly European makes, did not claim this with respect to W & N, although saying they were 'under competitive attack' by some other makes  of equal quality in many colours at lower prices. This mainly referred to the American market.

Unfortunately W & N are no longer British, having been sold to a Swedish company in 1990. Since then I believe ownership has changed again to a German corporation or multinational. Production of the artists watercolours has also been transferred to France. If we were able to untangle this web it might well lead to the Russian or Chinese governments. Only joking but who knows who owns what these days? Members of the Newton family were still involved into the 1970s but no longer.

The Range? 96 colours all but three of which are given excellent lightfastness ratings. Handprint always suggested you take manufacturers ratings with a pinch of salt and disputed quite a number. Here the three culprits are Rose Madder Genuine (NR9), Opera Rose (PR122 + a dye) and Alazarin Crimson (PR83). The original Opera is by Holbein and it acquired quite a following by mainly American artists despite it being known to be fugitive. W & N say Opera Rose is `significantly more lightfast than older pigments of its type'.  The W & N formulation seems identical to that from Holbein although they don't specify what the dye is (Holbein - BV10). W & N have an excellent leaflet that folds out into a large double-sided sheet containing much useful information. In terms of the information provided is goes beyond  Schminke. Transparency, opacity, warm and cool colours, everything is there with much else besides. Virtually every art shop I've ever visited who sell the brand has this leaflet.

There are some quirks in the range. Cadmium Orange for example is a mixture of Cadmium Red and Cadmium Yellow not the true PO20. They have the habit of giving certain colours the prefix of `Winsor', for example Winsor Blue (PB15), Winsor Green (PG36)  , two versions of each. Qinacridone Gold is now a three pigment mix that correctly should be labelled a `hue'. However everything is there and most paints are labelled reasonably correctly not the flights of fancy some indulge in. One of the standout colours is Permanent Rose (PV19) a favourite of many flower painters. I keep reading they are the most expensive paints in America apart from Bloxx but this isn't the case in the UK where,  although in the top tier of prices, they are competitive and cheaper than Daniel Smith. You need to allow for the fact though that the 14ml tube size is unique to them, although the web art supplier Ken Bromley has it's own brand in this size compared to others of mostly standard 15ml. It does make a difference. As for sizes I wish they would offer either a 21ml or 24ml rather than the huge 37ml. Even though the price per ml is lower it is still too rich for most amateurs.

I've used and still do W & N paints. I don't major on them because of my price philosophy but they are good quality and have a long pedigree. They are regularly on special offer in the UK and that's when I buy some. I'm sure Daniel Smith has given them a shock and the lights burn long in the marketing dept to counter this. At least when I queried them over the Cotman policy I had a long e-mail correspondence, rather than  no reply from either Daniel Smith or Maimeri. I got nowhere in the end but that's beside the point at least they replied. One result has been the introduction of 'special edition' sets, two so far, and it may be other initiatives will follow.  I've given my view on the special sets and will say no more on the subject.   Worth buying? Absolutely.




11 comments:

Edo Hannema said...

My shock were that I saw David Bellamy's announcement painting with Saunders (uk) and rosemary's brushes (uk) and DS colours! (USA) such a fine english artist! Daler Rowney or W&N did have to make sure David was provided with all the colours he want from them!!
that DS have a excellent marketing I am sure!

Peter Ward said...

Companies regularly have special arrangements with certain name artists. I knew one who promoted Daler Rowney and a close student of his told me he got them free. Then this stopped and the next thing he is promoting Sennelier. Beware siren voices and artists promoting certain products.

Jim Serrett said...

I have used Winsor and Newton for years now, always good quality, fairly priced and readily available. I recently had a concern about the composition and permanence of their oil colors and a missing ASTM rating? I contacted them. They assured me that the pigment does met required standards, and when ask where they are made I was told that all of their paints are currently being manufactured in China. I did not specifically ask about watercolors, but this correspondence has left me very concerned and questioning all of their products.

Peter Ward said...

Hi Jim. If that is correct then I'd be very concerned also. As I said exactly who owns them now is a bit of a mystery- at least to me.

indianagreg said...

Peter, this may help answer some questions: http://www.harrowtimes.co.uk/news/8680494.ColArt__welcomes__efforts_to_find_Harrow_home/

Zvonimir said...

Unfortunately, an expected outcome of the horrendous British economic policy of the 1970s and 1980s onwards; once proud and quality domestic industry was given forced chemotherapy, assets were looted, production moved overseas, labour crushed as usual. Now paints are made in China, for sure, because China is world's largest producer of raw material for industrial paints and coatings. If you visit Alibaba, Chinese portal for exporting of everything, from a screw up to an oil tanker, you will find pigments too, assorted and sold in metric tonnes. They can be shipped anywhere.

Peter Ward said...

Unfortunately Zvonimir selling off UK companies to foreign interests, many of dubious provenance, is the British disease. In the art world Winsor & Newton have bitten the dust and so have Daler Rowney who are now part of the F.I.L.A group, 'listed on the Milan stock exchange' Who are these owners?. Contrast this with Schminke and Maimeri, still family owned after many decades. I find it very depressing and the founders of these companies must be turning in their graves.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Inianagreg. Sad isn't it? It is if you are a patriotic Englishman - and I'm not a little Englander either - who thinks we have sold our soul to the devil knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

Simple Living Blogger said...

Of all the paints I've tried (and I have tried most of the big names) by far the best are DaVinci. In the US we can also buy them under the Cheap Joe's house brand of American Journey. They are vibrant, packed with pigment, come in big 37 ml tubes or 15 ml tubes with a few colors available in 5ml. They are the best price and the best paint. Though they do not have honey in the binder, they rewet instantly and to full strength. It took me a while to come around to them, but now I am using them exclusively. I'm not sure how available they are in the UK, but I know several US art supply websites will ship internationally, and DaVinci has a web shop where they sell all the different types of paint they make as well. I finally gave up on WN because they are very expensive and they dry so hard, it's often difficult to get them to rewet to a decent consistency.

Peter Ward said...

That's interesting but I don't think you'd get universal agreement that DaVinci are the best. I've only used the ones they made under the Michael Wilcox label. They were okay but did not stand out. Each to his own I say and feel most of the leading makes are perfectly acceptable. Graham were said by many including Handprint to be the best but I had problems with pinholes in the tubes and the Mineral Violet was so bad - a thick brown sludge - I gave up on it in the end despite receiving replacement tubes twice. Unfortunately Da Vinci in the UK are only available from one source and prices

Peter Ward said...

Sorry I meant to say 'prices not fully competitive as the supplier has a monopoly.