Q: Does Winsor & Newton and Gamblin Artists Colors have a true equivalent to Grumbacher Red?

Question: Does Winsor & Newton and Gamblin Artists Colors have a true equivalent to Grumbacher Red?
Answer: I have to say at this time that my response is, I don’t know. But, I’ve gone to some of my sources to soon find a better answer than that !

As you might well already know, Grumbacher Red has been a special color for quite a few years, a proprietary formulation that Grumbacher holds close to its chest. I first ran across mention of it twenty, thirty years ago in a book by artist Joyce Pike painting florals etc. in California. She listed her palette, something always done in such books, along with what brushes I use, etc. and the entries were sensibly mostly generic. Cadmium Red. French Ultramarine Blue. Yellow Ochre. But there was that glaring exception, Grumbacher Red. Not just any red, Grumbacher Red. So… we’ll be getting some responses soon.

Grumbacher’s web site does list a pigment / dye for this, napthol red, but that is a little dissembling; everyone knows that is just the beginning to make a hue. Like a recipe from a famous food chef, it’s not just kosher salt, endive, etc. the devil here is in the PROCESS as well. A change in process here and there can make the difference in outcome from blue to red !

And, of course, Grumbacher Red is not the only iconic color out there. Holbein’s watercolor “Opera” comes instantly to mind, a gorgeous red also. It’s an essential on the palette for a flower painter. Winsor and Newton, and maybe others have chased after Holbein’s Opera. Hopefully, we’ll soon find out what others have done to mimic, to one degree of success or another, Grumbacher Red. After all they’ve had many, many years to do so.

I just heard back from Winsor & Newton. I suppose that they have to be circumspect about what they say. They did say that they did NOT have a tube or real paint sample in front of them. I think this is a little dissembling; were I in the business, I’d want to know about and deconstruct every competitor out there in detail. But then, I don’t have to abide the strictures that an employee there in any such company must have.

Nonetheless, two W&N colors were suggested and, at sight on the Internet, they do look quite close, “Winsor Red” and “Bright Red”. Two warm, bright reds. (See referred current images for comparison.)




Hope that this is in some way satisfactory. As W&N sort of implied, I think ultimately you’ll have to just get samples of both and evaluate them yourself, in your own environment and your own applications.


Unless you’re deep into florals, you’re not likely to hear of them.
Me? I knew of them only because I’m a colors junkie. But, in my own work, chiefly in landscape, I never worry about an EXACT color. I just get close (mixing on the paper if in watercolor) and then worry much more about color harmony rather than any accuracy.

But, people working in florals have to work on all of the criteria above, together with longevity. And if you’re dead set to accurately portray exactly that blossom, then it can be a nightmare. (Relatively speaking; let’s keep it all in proportion! :] ) Thus some artists and paint manufacturers go to great lengths to produce very specific (and quite beautiful hues). Another one, besides Grumbacher Red in oils and Opera in Holbein watercolors, is watercolor, Rose Madder Genuine. By their own admission, Winsor & Newton have labored mightily to duplicate it in another, more robust formulation because of fugitive issues. But so far; not complete success. And, W&N continues to offer “Rose Madder Genuine”, alongside their various duplication efforts. They just can’t match it exactly.

All this kinda makes you wonder about the historical efforts of explorer / artists slogging thru hot, dripping jungles to watercolor sketch new flora, fauna and birds to show wealthily patrons back home in Europe. Think Alexander Humboldt, for example. Or the Americans, Audubon and Lewis and Clark. Have their priceless images faded since then? In what way and can this process be reversed?

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