‘Refined Palette” ~ a Selection of 77 Palettes from The Salmagundi Club Collection



Charles Yardley Turner (1850-1919), Palette #33. Image courtesy Salmagundi Club

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.

Notice Palettes lining the upper walls, surrounding the Library at Salmagundi Club, where the Palettes have historically been located

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.”

Another view of the Palettes lining the upper walls, surrounding the Library at Salmagundi Club, where the Palettes have historically been located
Studio palettes used for creating artworks were generally much larger, meant to sit along the forearm of the artist. Each provides a unique window into the perspective of the artist, as they engage in their personal process of artmaking. It all begins here on the artist’s palette with dabs of paint holding the moments of inspiration and choice of pigments or blended colors. This serves as a precursor to the brush touching the canvas, before there is a finished artwork to step back and admire. Even a few of the palettes contain an original painting by the artist.
In his 2011 essay, “The Salmagundi Palette Collection,” Alexander W. Katlan writes, “The personal arrangement of colors on a palette relies on each painter’s development of personal working methods and application of paint. The non-painter might assume that an artist would lay out the colors in order of the spectrum, but that apparently would be no more convenient than if your computer keyboard was arranged alphabetically. The choices and arrangements of colors for an artist to work easily, are as individual as the finished picture and often more enlightening.”


The Bar at Salmagundi Club
Salmagundi Club is located at 47 Fifth Avenue between 11th/12th Streets in Greenwich Village. The exhibition is in the Wiggins Bar Gallery, lower level, and is free and open to the public. Viewing hours are 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm Monday through Friday, and 1:00 to 5:00 pm Saturday and Sunday.
Learn more about Salmagundi’s palette collection, written about by Alexander W. Katlan in his 2011 publication, The Palette Reveals the Artist: https://archive.org/details/2011-the-palette-reveals-the-artist-by-alexander-w-katlan-1/page/50/mode/2up