"Artists in the inland regions of Australia had a problem for many years. Many of the colours produced by northern hemisphere paint manufacturers are aimed at the softer light of Europe and other cool regions The extraordinary light in more exotic and warmer regions such as North Africa, the American Midwest, and much of Australia gives the landscape a remarkable luminosity. The sky can be almost pure cobalt and the earth is alive with luminous reds, oranges and yellows. Photographs of places like Kakadu show rocks that are an extraordinarily bright orange. Transparent yellow, red and umber oxides were ideal for many of these colours but there was a need for a transparent sienna colour as well to get that Kakadu-like orange. As no pigment had the precise requirements Matisse was hearing from artists in the field, their colour specialists created this unique blend. It has an earthy orange mass tone with a golden undertone that perfectly captures the enriched sienna type colours in arid regions.
It is not just Kakadu that has such intense saturation of colour since Australia is full of these richly coloured landscapes. From Port Augusta to Cape York; from Kalgoorlie to Collaroy landscapes are full of intense light and richly saturated colour. The Grand Canyon and surrounding regions in the US have these colours as does the Sahara and special places like Petra. Australian Sienna has the richness of colour to work well in all of these landscapes.
In many ways it could be regarded as a gold ochre but the traditional gold ochre pigments lack the transparency and therefore the golden glow of the undertone. Undertone is the colour that is revealed when a paint is very thin. There will always be some difference from the appearance of the colour when it is thick (the mass tone) but some colours have a vast difference between mass tone and undertone. This can be a very attractive effect. Usually those colours are transparent. Australian Sienna is one of the colours with a very distinctive undertone.
Because it is so transparent it is a delightful colour when making olive greens and mixtures with reds glow with rich beautiful colour. When mixed with Matisse Scarlet or Primary red it produces the deepest reds of places like Kakadu or the Arches National Park and with just a touch of Australia Ghost Gum added to the mix the pinks of stone in places like Petra come to mind. Considering the name of the colour it is actually a great international traveller and perfect for the most extraordinary landscape subjects worldwide. Because Australian Sienna is so different to Raw Sienna it behaves quite differently in mixtures and both colours earn a place in the paintbox along side each other.