Hugh Aldersey-Williams on the impact of cadmium in art (from Periodic Tales: A Cultural History of the Elements, from Arsenic to Zinc):
These superior colours made themselves indispensable to painters. A few had quibbles about their supposed artificiality — William Holman Hunt complained that cadmium yellow ‘at the best is very capricious’ — but most saw the bright, pure colours for what they were. The Impressionists, Post-Impressionists and above all the Fauvists made good use of cadmium — or, it would be more accurate to say, cadmium made possible these successive waves of artistic revolution. As each new tint became available, it powered in turn the yellow sunsets of Monet, the orange-soaked Arles interiors of van Gogh and Matisse’s Red Studio. People have romantically supposed that van Gogh was too hard up to buy the new pigments, while others believe the artist’s mental state may have been affected by his use of cadmium (although he was certainly also using more noxious pigments). What is sure is that he and his peers suddenly had access to a palette of colours of an intensity never seen before. (p. 289)
Credit: Henri Matisse, Red Studio, 1911 (via WikiPaintings).