Black chalk

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Winslow Homer
MFA# 68.575


An old name for a soft, blue-black variety of a clay formed from aluminum containing Slate. Black chalk obtains its color from impurities of Carbon, black iron oxide, or Manganese oxide. It was sometimes used as a crayon or writing tool, especially since the Rennaisance. Black chalk was mined in Thuringia, parts of France and Andalucia. Sometimes graphite was also referred to as black chalk.

Homer Dodge Martin
MFA# 67.698

Synonyms and Related Terms

craie noire (Fr.); lapiz negro (Esp.); grafite (It.); piombaggine (It.); mineral black; black earth; Italian chalk


  • No significant hazards.

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Resources and Citations

  • J.Winter, "The Characterization of Pigments Based on Carbon" Studies in Conservation 28:49-66, 1983.
  • R. J. Gettens, G.L. Stout, Painting Materials, A Short Encyclopaedia, Dover Publications, New York, 1966
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • R.D. Harley, Artists' Pigments c. 1600-1835, Butterworth Scientific, London, 1982
  • The Dictionary of Art, Grove's Dictionaries Inc., New York, 1996 Comment: "Pigments" and "Chalk"
  • Susan E. Schur, Conservation Terminology: A review of Past & Current Nomenclature of Materials, Technology and Conservation, Spring (p.34-39); Summer (p.35-38); Fall (p.25-36), 1985
  • Monona Rossol, The Artist's Complete Health and Safety Guide, Allworth Press, New York, 1994

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