Rive Gauche Fine Oil Colours are named after the Left Bank of Paris, where Sennelier was founded in 1887. The special property of these new oil paints is that they dry to a satin finish, and dry twice as fast as conventional oil paint, while retaining the characteristic buttery texture of fine oil colours. This allows the artist to work twice as fast. Safflower oil is used in their formula so they are less likely to yellow.

Sennelier is proud of its cadmium substitutes, which it promises have the same opacity and luminosity as the genuine cadmiums. Ninety-eight per cent of their colours are lightfast. There are 32 single pigment colours, with 60 colours clearly packaged in 40ml tubes and 56 colours in 200ml tubes. Within the range, 52 colours are opaque and six are semi-opaque. There are two transparent and four iridescent colours. The prices are the same for every colour. Jackson’s price is £3.10 for a 40ml tube and £10.10 for a 200ml tube.


Chosen colours

A beautiful colour chart arrived and I was very generously invited to choose 15 pigments and a white. I wanted them all, of course! I was eager to try the new cadmium substitutes and a good selection of blues so I chose: titanium white 116 (opaque), primary yellow 574 (semiopaque), cadmium yellow medium hue 541 (opaque), yellow ochre 252 (opaque), orange 641 (semi-opaque), cadmium red light hue 613 (opaque), carmine red 635 (opaque), pyrrole red 685 (opaque), cobalt blue hue 303 (opaque), cerulean blue hue 323 (opaque), phthalo turquoise 341 (opaque), anthraquinone blue 395 (opaque), French ultramarine blue 314 (opaque), burnt umber 202 (opaque), green earth 213 (opaque), and copper 036 (opaque). All the colours shown in this test report are quoted as having ‘exceptional’ lightfastness. I painted a series of small paintings, including the demonstration study you will find below, using a selection of colour mixes to test as many combinations and approaches as possible.


Blues and earth green

The pastel shades were fresh and clean. Phthalo turquoise, cerulean blue hue and anthraquinone blue really held their colour when added to white. Green mixes were fantastic, offering a wide range of warm and cool options. Cadmium red did take over the blues and I think that Sennelier has powerful cadmium substitutes. Carmine red resulted in an exciting range of violets and purples. Green earth is well balanced on its own, and mixes well with other primaries.

Blues and green earth shown from left to right: phthalo turquoise 341, cerulean blue hue 323, cobalt blue hue 303, French ultramarine blue 314, anthraquinone blue 395 and green earth 213.

All blues were mixed with: titanium white, cadmium yellow medium hue, cadmium red light hue and carmine red.


Yellows

The yellows were my favourite pigments. They are extremely supportive in their mixes. Clean oranges provided a healthy cool and warm range, and beautiful greens were mixed with every single blue pigment.

Yellows shown from left to right: primary yellow 574, cadmium yellow medium hue 541 and yellow ochre 252.

All yellows were mixed with: titanium white, cadmium red light hue, carmine red, cerulean blue, cobalt blue, French ultramarine and anthraquinone blue.


Reds

You can observe the subtle temperature shifts in the pastel shades especially earthy pink 613 and ‘baby’ pink 635. All orange mixes were strong due to the addition of cadmium yellow. The cerulean blue gave me a stunning variation of colours, such as warm turquoise, ‘cobalt’ purple, reddish purple and an interesting green.

Reds from left to right: cadmium red light hue 613, carmine red 635, pyrrole red 685 and orange 641.

All reds were mixed with: titanium white, cerulean blue and cadmium yellow medium hue.


Copper

I had to try at least one iridescent colour. The copper was beautiful. It had a wonderful texture and mixed extremely well with the four colours I selected. It did wonders when added to the yellow ochre. The shadowy tone that resulted from the phthalo duo was stunning. The richer earthy orange from the addition of cadmium red could add diversity to many palettes.

Copper was mixed with: titanium white, yellow ochre, phthalo turquoise and cadmium red light hue.


Detail from Pink Flower Girl, Rive Gauche Fine Oil Colours and mixed media on wood, (81x61cm).

Here I wanted to work with pastel shades, and pink in particular. It is always interesting to see what a colour looks like when white is added. A perfect opportunity presented itself in the shape of this flower. The flower is part of this mixed-media painting, which had to be painted on wood that was primed with gesso. I included the copper in my mixes to see what else this iridescent colour could do. The techniques applied to the flower were dry brush and careful painting with premixed shades (with a little extra linseed oil). I was able to mix the most beautiful colours, ranging from the deeper purple-pinks – the phthalo turquoise really stood out here – to the warmer pinks where yellow ochre, copper and orange played a role. I don’t usually use such an expansive palette, but what a great opportunity to compare so many variations.


Demonstration Blue Jar and Lemon

This simple still life was an exercise in working with consistent layers and impasto strokes.

Rive Gauche colours used:

  • Titanium white 116
  • Primary yellow 574
  • Cadmium yellow medium hue 541
  • Yellow ochre 252
  • Orange 641
  • Pyrrole red 685
  • Cobalt blue hue 303
  • Cerulean blue hue 323
  • Anthraquinone blue 395
  • French ultramarine blue 314
  • Burnt umber 202

1. An acrylic underpainting was applied very quickly; I wanted to paint straight away. A favourite jar offered many shades of blue and a lemon gave me the perfect subject to try the primary yellow and cadmium yellow medium hue.


2. I always take time to premix my oil colours in order to organise my palette. Cerulean and yellow produced beautiful cool blue-greens and the warmer blue pigments (cobalt blue and French ultramarine) described the stronger tones in the stripes. A little orange and pyrrole red swayed them towards the shadows. I was impressed with anthraquinone blue; it is well balanced for shadow mixes.


3. The lemon was painted in chunky strokes of a short flat brush; the result was similar to that of a palette knife.

The primary yellow and cadmium yellow medium hue were extremely bright and rich in pigment, and a good sticky consistency. I will definitely add these yellows to my collection.


4. Together with burnt umber and pyrrole red, I was able to achieve the depth within the jar. Even though the oil paint can be used directly from the tube, I did add a little linseed oil to the paint to allow it to flow. I was able to finish my study in one sitting so the paint holds its own in the layering process. This painting was touch-dry two days later.

Blue Jar and Lemons, Sennelier Rive Gauche Fine Oil Colours on canvas, (30.5x25.5cm).