On view from April 15 through August 31, 2022, in the Wiggins Bar Gallery, the Salmagundi Club presents Refined Palette. The Club has nearly 150 palettes in its permanent collection, notably the largest group of American artist palettes, and likely the largest remaining collection of its time. Initially the collection began with a gift of over 120 palettes by fellow Salmagundian Henry “Harry” Willson Watrous. For years, these palettes adorned the walls of the library and hallways of the club. Displayed in this exhibition today are a selection of 77 of these palettes by prominent artists including Watrous, Alfred Cornelius Howland, Julian Alden Weir, Walter Florian and George Randolph Barse Jr.
Harry Watrous states in a 1908 letter, “In examining this collection, you will notice the individuality in the setting of the colors, some with the white in the center, some with it on the end, with the reds, yellows, greens, and blues grouped in entirely different manners… but always beautiful and harmonious. It also shows the simplicity of the artist’s choice of colors, and how a hundred or more painters will take the same palette and work an entirely different color scheme, the dry and hard, the rich and mellow, the sparkling and somber, each proclaiming the master in brain and brush.”
Many of the palettes in the collection are demonstration palettes, rather than working palettes, which can be determined due to their smaller size and oval shape. These would have been given to the artist for them to arrange the colors in their typical manner, and then sign the palette, for preservation purposes. As curator Bill Indursky explains, “[These] were used to show how the artist would lay out their paint daubs, how they arranged their colors, what colors they used and how much of each. Some artists would go a step further showing secondary and other levels of mixing which they allowed to permanently harden to the surface.”