Thursday, September 9

What Was Claude Monet's Color Palette?

Row Boat, Acrylic on Canvas,
10 x 14 in/ 25 x 35 cm
Copyright 2009
You may, or may not, have noticed over there in the right-hand column of my blog that I recently added a section I call ‘The Art Book I’m Currently Reading.’ I thought some of you may be interested in what another artist is reading because I am interested in what artists read.

Anyway, I’m on my third book since I added that section, and it’s The Great Book of French Impressionism. You have probably gleaned from my previous blogs that I like Impressionism. I will admit to it. Call me old-fashioned, I don’t care.

I like Claude Monet’s work among many of the Impressionists just like millions (I’m guessing) of other people on the planet.

One of the things that I have been curious about was his color palette. Just what paint colors did he use? One would think there would be a very straight-forward answer on that topic, what with the internet and all.

So, I Googled several phrases that I thought would best describe what I was looking for. I thought a list of paint colors would immediately pop-up. However, from what I could find, there are only a few sites that even discuss the actual colors. Most talk about all kinds of painting techniques and how he painted and how he didn’t use black and where he painted and blah, blah, blah.

From the few sites I found about his actual colors: discussed the colors in Monet’s famous Bathers at La Grenouillere, 1869, one of his earlier works. It said: vermilion, viridian, emerald green, chrome green, chrome yellow, lemon yellow, cobalt violet, Prussian blue, and lead white.

From the art blog, My French Easel, in 2009, two quotes were evidently researched and provided. One quote says, “Silver White, Cadmium Yellow, Vermilion, Dark Madder, Cobalt Blue, Emerald Green and that’s it.” (Letter from Monet to G. Durand-Ruel–Giverny, 3 July 1905). A second quote: “Silver White, Light Cobalt Purple, Emerald Green, Extra-fine ultramarine; Sometime – occasionally – some Vermilion. Then a trinity of Cadmium: Light, Dark, Citrus; I also sell to him a Citrus Yellow Ultramarine, since a few years.” (Tabarant, Couleurs in Le Bulletin de la Vie Artisitique, 15 July 1923, pages 287-290).

One online-answer site,, says the colors were/are: lead white (modern equivalent = titanium white, chrome yellow (modern equivalent = cadmium yellow light), cadmium yellow, viridian green, emerald green, French ultramarine, cobalt blue, madder red (modern equivalent = alizarin crimson), vermilion, and ivory black (but only used before 1886).

There are probably more, but I got tired of looking. And I think you can just about figure out which colors Monet used, give or take. I am sure his color palette changed somewhat over the years as his painting matured, and that accounts for the differences.

I will use the list from because I already happen to have all those modern-equivalent colors on hand. From one artist who likes Impressionism, I think this is a very interesting subject.

Until next blog…


  1. I have been reading a pretty cool little book on painting like Monet. The instructional visual examples are bad, but the step by step instructions and the history is good. It lists a few of Monets different pallettes over time. But matches pretty well the last list you used. In his earlier paintings Monet did use black, but later on he stopped, but I think he mixed a near black as far as I can tell in examining his paintings. Sure a mixed black is more colorful than a flat black from a tube, but it is still black to me.

  2. Thanks for your comment. I'm glad to hear from others who like Monet (and/or Impressionism) as much as I do.

  3. Extremely simple to comprehend information. Thank you!

  4. Google monet palette national gallery...the uk national gallery did a scientific analysis of the pigments used on two post 1900 paintings that affirms most of the info on his colors and makes for interesting reading as well.

  5. One question remains unresolved in my mind. Since Titanium white was made available during the later years of Monet's life,did he at any time use Titanium white ???
    Grateful if someone out there can enlighten me on this point. Thank you. M Jan

    1. You might find the the colourlex website very interesting in exploring Monet's and other artist's colour use! It is a collaborative project where you can see museum uploads of the pigment analyses of famous paintings. Including three analysed Monet paintings from the National Gallery:

      m.jan --Based on these paintings, uptill c.1916 Monet was using still Lead White.

    2. Thanks for your reply and information on this most interesting subject.

  6. i have been searching about Monet's colorpalletee as well.... i found your article very useful.I am readig a book by William Maughan and he mentions Monet used tertiary colors in his paintings.I ll paint using Maughan s instructions and share it on my blog.Happy painting

  7. hi there , this is one of my pet subjets, from my research Monets pallet contained as from modern day Windsor and Newton oils :
    reds : Nos 42 Vermillion hue 17 crimson Lake ( alizarin )16 Cobalt violet ;
    Blues Nos 15 cobalt hue, 21 French ultra marine, 33 Prussian blue ; yellows : 26 Lemon, 9 cadmium 13 chrome;
    Greens Nos 11 chrome ; 18 Emerald; 43 viridian.

    The difficulty starts when converting the oil shades to acrylics. chrome yellow oil is matched with cadmium yellow hue or medium 116 acrylic. cadmium yellow hue oil matches acrylic daler and rowney 618.
    Chrome green oil ive only seen matched by Pebeo acrylic 60.
    Have fun !