Israel Hershberg: My Palette(s)


My palette, if I am to think of it only as a list of colors inside of tubes, has changed little over the past 40 or so years. Whether in the attenuated, saturated notes and temperatures found in much of the Northeastern US, or under the merciless and brutally denuding light that bears down on Israel’s long dry summers, or in that tempered and fragrant apricot tinged light that is Umbria or Tuscany - that palette has served me well. This same list of colors has survived significant shifts and turns over time, as my inclinations, temperament, and aspirations toward light, color and place took to new directions.


In earlier years while living mainly in the North East and mid-Atlantic regions of the US, it was a paradigm of Northern European light that held my interest most. I mean by that, the not overly-brown palettes of Vermeer and Velazquez; a more naturalistic variation of the high contrast effects of chiaroscuro and tenebroso, was to a great extent the palette out of which I aspired to paint.

The move to Jerusalem, with the region’s unrelenting light and over-the-top lux index started moving me toward another kind of paradigm. The intense and hazy light of the Mediterranean became for me a stimulus for a renewed engagement with the high keys of fresco: Pompeii, Villa Livia, Fra Angelico, Giotto, Piero, Masaccio, early Corot and Morandi, came to the forefront plane of my thinking as I began painting my way south. Of course, sharing a “lake” with Italy, a commute of three and a half hours from Israel, went a long way to realizing in concrete terms the shift toward this new paradigm.

When I was younger I hand-ground and tubed my paints with the exception of Cremnitz White. That paint was superior in every way to anything manufactured on an industrial scale. Though I am unable to do so now, I prefer using the so called “handmade” colors manufactured today on a small scale than the mass-produced variety.


The List:
Cremnitz White - Old Holland (only)
Lemon Yellow
Cadmium Yellow Medium
Indian Yellow - Michael Harding
Cadmium Orange Light
Cadmium Red Light
Alizarin Crimson
Burnt Siena
Raw Umber
Windsor Violet - Windsor &  Newton
Provence Violet Bluish - Williamsburg
Cobalt Blue
Ultramarine Blue
Phthalocyanine Blue Lake - Michael Harding
Vert Aubusson - Lefranc & Bourgeois
Veronese Green - Lefranc & Bourgeois
Cadmium Green
Cadmium Green Light

Aria Umbra I, 2003 - 2005, Oil on linen, 119 x 250 cm, 
Collection: Israel Museum, Jerusalem Israel
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