Goodbye, Old Holland

 Goodbye, Old Holland, I’m done with you.

In my Oil Paint Brand Reference, I rated the Old Holland (OH) brand as top; best in breed among high-end brands.  Its dense pigmentation gives it unrivaled covering power and performance.  Funny thing though, I noticed that lately there are no OH paints on my palette.  Why?  Price.  Their prices are lurid; so high that I buy them with less and less frequency.  

And it’s not just the high prices that have put me off the brand.  OH has cynically taken advantage of the EU’s anti-fine art material policies to rocket the prices of their lead-based paints through the roof.  A 125 ML tube of cremnitz white lists for $179;  Blick lists it for $134.  And every time I price their other colors the price has jumped 5%.  Things couldn’t have worked out better for OH’s pricing scheme if they’d written the EU regulations themselves.  Makes you wonder.   

The lead-based whites–flake white and cremnitz white–are the backbone of oil painting.  The other whites-zinc and titanium–simply do not compare.  OH, as a sop to artists who refuse to pay their high prices, offers flake white #1 which is a blend of real flake white and zinc white. The price, while lower than that of pure flake white ($84), is still extremely high.  My guess is that flake white #1 is 90% zinc and 10% flake white.

I bought a batch of flake white #1 some time back but I haven’t used it for awhile.  I use pure flake white from other brands, mostly RGH, Blue Ridge, Utrecht, and W&N.  It was high time to put flake white #1 through its paces.  I mixed my usual assortment of warm and cool grays and flesh tones with it (you can see them in the center of the palette in this photo) and started working on the painting on the easel.

Flake white #1 handles like zinc white rather than real flake white.  It’s stiff and unresponsive–yeech.  I hate it.  I scrapped off the offending mixtures, as you can see in this photo, and started fresh with mixtures made with flake white from Utrecht.  

I won’t use my supply of half-dozen tubes of flake white #1 for anything other than grounds. That’s a steep price for something I usually reserve for student-grade paint.

I won’t buy OH paints any longer.

  7 comments for “Goodbye, Old Holland

  1. Agreed on Old Holland. They were my favorite, along with Schminke Mussini (I like the added dammar— have frequently ground my own paint and added amber/copal/mastic/dammar/Canada balsam/larch turps etc and made many mediums/varnishes). But both are killers price wise and their quality compared to Vasari/Rublev at similar prices just didn’t make sense. These days it’s Kama or Kremer or Rublev for dry pigments, and Vasari, (favorite off the shelf— high prices but worth it quality wise to me )Michael Harding, RGH, and occasionally Blockx for tubes. Am a big fan of James Groves mediums, just excellent quality to price ratio by my lights.
    Love you blog!

  2. Rublev paints are good. Their burnt sienna might be the best I’ve seen. Their oils and mediums are very uneven, however. These days I’m buying paints from RGH, Blue Ridge, and Doak. Everything I’ve ever purchased from Doak has been good.

  3. Doak sold me the worst tube of Cobalt violet light ever. It was like purple transparent toothpaste — so cut with filler. Even the LeFranc stuff (heavily cut with filler) was much better. I had used Blockx (the best cobalt violet light), Old Holland (nearly the same), Williamsburg (not as vivid), and Holbein (different pigment and quite good, although not Blockx and OH level). So, I was used to what good-quality cobalt violet light is.

    His lead-tin yellow and naples yellow were also full of big pieces of grit that left awful streaks when painting with a knife.

    Everyone I spoke with didn’t believe his genuine vermilion is anything other than pyrrole. It was a very nice paint though — until the scabby white patches formed on the dried paint (something I’ve not had from any other paint maker).

  4. Sad to hear this. The only thing from Doak that I didn’t like is Goop, which isn’t for me. He’s cut back the materials he makes and provides. His sun-thickened oil (discontinued) is a miracle and far superior to, say, Natural Pigment’s. The last time I talked to him, he tried to sell me liquid watercolors. He also mentioned he is in his 80’s.

  5. Hi,
    Interesting and informative report on Old Holland. I just have a question regarding the EU policy on art materials. What is this? I tried to search for it but couldn’t find the information.

  6. The European Union (EU) has implemented regulations regarding the presence of lead in various products, including paints and art supplies. Lead is a hazardous substance that can cause serious health issues, particularly in children, even in small amounts.

    The Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) is the primary legislation governing chemicals, including those used in art supplies, within the EU. Lead compounds, including those used in paints, fall under the scope of REACH.

    Under REACH, substances of very high concern (SVHC), which includes lead compounds, may be subject to authorization or restriction. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) manages the implementation of REACH and maintains a list of SVHC substances.

    Furthermore, the European standard for safety in art materials (EN 71) provides guidelines for the safety of toys and other products intended for use by children. This standard includes limits on the concentration of certain hazardous substances, including lead, in art materials.

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