Over the last 10 years, artists have had to reconcile themselves to the fact that manganese blue, one of the most beautiful of all blues available to the painter, is no longer being made. The pigment was first developed in the 1930s and was last manufactured in the 1970s. R&F had enough stock to produce manganese blue encaustic until early this year. In that short 70 some years, the color was justly renowned for its unmatchably clear cyan undertone.
The reason its production was discontinued is economical. Other than its value as an artist pigment, the main commercial use was to color cement (esp. for swimming pools). With such a limited market, modern safety requirements regarding its barium content made the processing of it too expensive.
After many years of fruitless search for remaining supplies, R&F decided to mix its own version of the color. To match it exactly is impossible. A phenomenon called “metamerism” means that a color made or mixed with one set of chemicals (such as cobalt blue and titanium white) may match a color mixed with another set of chemicals (such as ultramarine blue, phthalo blue, and titanium white) – but only in the light under which it is mixed. If the color, say, is matched under fluorescent light, it will not match at all under daylight.
In the case of a transparent color, the match is even trickier. The undertone may match, but only at the expense of the top tone. In many of our attempts the top tone was too red, while the undertone was too green. Painstaking trial and error finally resulted in a mix that we feel is close to the original manganese blue, and even more important, a color that is gorgeous in its own right.
The best part is that we will now make this color not only as an encaustic but as a Pigment Stick too.