It is the paint pigment which brightened Monet’s fall leaves and Matisse’s red studio.
However, there are dark times ahead for cadmium, which was beloved of masters such as Cézanne, Dali and Bacon. The rare metallic element faces a Europe-wide ban as a result of its potential toxicity, and contemporary artists could be denied the power and vibrancy — cadmium’s colors soar from light to golden yellows, fiery to deep oranges, and out of scarlet reds to maroon — of those colors used by previous masters.
Cadmium was discovered by Friedrich Stromeyer, a German chemist, in 1817, but it didn’t become commercially viable for the following 2 decades. The pigment was used sparingly due to the scarcity of this alloy, which was reflected in its prohibitive price.
The pigment is associated with oils, the moderate largely employed by the masters, but it’s available in oil and watercolor paints also. It is still one of the more expensive pigments.
Meanwhile, cadmium and its proponents face a larger problem as it confronts a ban in the European Union while the European Chemical Agency believes a complaint from among the member states. Sweden called for its ban, the Art Newspaper has shown, over fears that when artists wash their brushes in the sink, cadmium enters the water treatment plants and therefore seeps to the waste sludge. That sewage is then spread on agricultural land and the Swedish government fears people will get exposed to cadmium through meals.
Many artists in and out of Europe have signed a petition against the ban. The landscape painter Emily Faludy states it would be a”disaster” if she was not able to use cadmium paints. Often they’re simply essential, she says, adding that it’s sunshine in a tube. Fellow artist Michele Del Campo agrees, saying there are no legitimate alternatives.
The only organic alternatives dubbed cadmium hues mostly don’t step up to cadmium’s vibrancy. The European Councils Janice Robinson, said, “they’re crucial to artists to create works of art with glowing colors. Lots of the gorgeous Impressionist paintings of the 19th century could look very different today with no cadmium-based yellows, reds and oranges.” And a world without such wonderful artworks would be a very dull world indeed.