Who is Zorn?

Andrew Zorn was born in 1860 and died in 1920. He was born in Sweden
and during his life became known as ‘the Swedish Impressionist’.
In his early artistic career he was known more for his sculptures but later
became known for his ability as a painter. Although he is well known for his
sensitive oil paintings he worked proficiently in watercolour, and in etching.
He is best known for his depictions of the female nude painted with loose
virtuoso brushstrokes and soft edges. A master in composition many of his
subjects are going about their daily lives unaware of the viewers intruding

He studied at the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts but he confessed that he
did not have much to learn from the Academy. He travelled extensively
through Europe and returned to Mora, Sweden in 1896. Zorn became well
known for working in a limited palette. Although he did not always limit his
palette, his work displays an inherent understanding of colour and a restraint
in his colour choices.

The Zorn Palette

The Zorn Palette consists of only four colours:
• Genuine Vermillion
• Yellow Ochre
• Bone Black
• Lead White

There is much discussion around the colours Zorn used over his life time. It
is often argued that he would not limit himself to the four colours listed above,
but that these colours formed the foundation of many of his paintings for
which he is well known. He might have used other colours as accents. As
you explore Zorn’s work and ask yourself this question!

His palette is on display at the National Museum in Stockholm, where we can
examine his colour choices and see that the ‘Zorn Palette’ was accompanied
by other hues. In a self portrait see below Zorn displays his palette and we
can clearly see the fours colours he has become famous for.

above: Zorn’s palette

Learning from Zorn

To explore Zorn’s limited palette is a valuable exercise for the modern day
artist. Limiting the palette we work from allows for greater exploration and
understanding of colour relationships. We learn how versatile the colours can
be. The chart below shows a range of colours that can be mixed from the
four colours of the Zorn Palette. As Zorn has shown, among other subjects,
beautiful portraits can be painted from this palette. The range of skin tones
that be mixed is vast and surprising.

The Zorn Colour Wheel

• Cadmium Red or Genuine Chinese Vermillion
• Yellow Ochre
• Lamp Black or Bone Black
• Titanium White or Flake White

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