LNT1001: Silvina Milstein: Ochre, Umber and Burnt Sienna
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Men have used earth pigments for depicting their imaginings since prehistoric times, but I am particularly attracted by Johannes Vermeer’s use of ochre, umber and burnt sienna in his paintings of women in their private spaces. After visiting the recent exhibition of Vermeer paintings at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, I became absorbed in a mode of looking at those portraits that involves focusing on how their expressive backgrounds – saturated with tiny strokes of earth pigments – invite us to enter domestic spaces, in which pensive women ponder and rest.
Ochre, umber and burnt sienna is written for a septet consisting of flute, harp, three violins and two double basses. While the two double basses play in their highest register, one of the violins (with its bottom string tuned a semitone lower than usual) provides a bridge that binds the ensemble into a monochrome whole made of hues of earthy tones.