Monday, April 27

Why Is It Called Hooker's Green?

Today’s Image
William Jackson Hooker

You may have noticed the Twitter Updates section in the column over there to your right. Twitter is the mini-blog, instant messaging phenomenon that appears to be growing exponentially. I usually provide an update on Twitter a couple of times a day about what’s going on in my art “world, ” which may be of no interest to anyone except me.

Be that as it may, in a recent “tweet” I said mixing Antwerp blue and Hooker’s green watercolors makes for a pleasing turquoise. In jest, one response was, “Hooker’s green—what kind of painting are you doing?”

Since renewing my interest in art a couple of years ago, I remember seeing Hooker’s green named as a color in just about every popular medium—oil, acrylic, watercolor, and pastel.

That “tweet” also got me to thinking again about how certain colors got their names. But, as I often say, what do I know? I didn’t know where the name for Hooker’s green came from, so I thought I'd try to find out. Here’s what I learned:

Hooker’s Green is a music group and is the no.1 download of pop/electronica/indie music on Myspace. Oops--interesting, but nothing to do with the color or painting.

The says it’s simply a mixture of Prussian blue and Gamboge. (I had previously researched Gamboge and posted a definition over to your right under Artists Factoids.) I then wondered why it’s called Prussian blue and could quickly see this becoming enigmatic, like a wheel within a wheel. But back to Hooker’s green.

The site gives a very cold, scientific, chemical definition using the pigment (PG) C.I. number (click to see my blog about that subject) and saying something about four manufacturers mix it like PG7 and PG 36, but most artists prefer one pthalo green, and that it’s heavy staining, dark--blah, blah, blah…

On, finally I’m getting warmer--it says: Hooker’s green, origin 1850-1855, named after W. Hooker (died 1832), English illustrator.

So I then Googled the term "W. Hooker English illustrator."

Both Wikipedia and have nice write-ups on the life of William Jackson Hooker. Both sources said he was a renowned English botanist, an author, and a gifted botanical illustrator. He established a herbarium (whatever that is) in England that held more than a million species of dried plants and drew botanists from around the world. He also wrote and edited botanical journals including Curtis’s Botanical Magazine. But nothing about Hooker's green.

Then, on I finally found information on his artwork and at last what I was really looking for. It says he was the finest English painter of fruit, and “Hooker even compounded a special pigment for the leaves, still sold to artists as ‘Hooker’s Green.’”

There you have it, from the OrbisPlanis!



  1. Thanks for this. I am a primary school teacher and am currently planning 6lessons for an enrichment afternoon on watercolour painting skills. The word hooker inGB has certain conotations so I wanted to be sure of my facts. Life would have been easier if his surname was Smith!!! Thanks again.

  2. Hooker Green is also listed in Ralph Mayer's tome "Handbook of Artists Materials And Techniques"", which is where I first came across the term.

    1. Thanks for your comment. The more we know, the better our paintings.

  3. William Jackson Hooker(1785-1865) was appointed as the director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kee in 1942 so he couldn't have died in 1832. Although Robert Kaye Greville, whom he teamed up with to produce Icones Filicum, died in 1832.

    1. As did William Hooker, another British botanical illustrator with no relation to William Jackson Hooker.

      History is weird.

  4. So maybe there were two William Hookers, both English botanical illustrators--one from 1785 to 1865 and the other from 1779 to 1832? At least that's what's on Wikipedia when you google his name. Also Wikipedia says Robert Kaye Greville was born 1794 and died in 1866. Thanks for your comment.

  5. Thank you so much. I too have been searching for the story of this intriguing named color. Everybody does tend to ask twice to see if I said it right!

  6. Thank you so much. I too have been searching for the story of this intriguing named color. Everybody does tend to ask twice to see if I said it right!

  7. I'm glad you found this information helpful. I'm always interested to know how colors got their names. Thanks.

  8. Byrne, there were two William Hookers; William Jackson Hooker (1785-1865) born in Norwich, the botanist who went on to be the first director of RBG, Kew, and was the father of Joseph Dalton Hooker, and William Hooker (1779-1832) the London-born botanical illustrator who was employed by the Horticultural Society of London to paint images of fruit, and who published ‘Pomona Londinensis’, c.1816. It is after this Hooker that the colour is named. It seems to me every man in the 19th century was called either James, Thomas or William, but what are the chances of two men with the same name taking up careers in the same field at the same time?Hope this helps, but this excellent blog post addresses directly this problem of mistaken identity: