At Large  June 21, 2022  Dian Parker

The Allure and Power of the Color Teal 

Courtesy of the artist.

Harry A. Rich, Ode to a Quilter I Knew. Acrylic. 53 x 56 in.

Using the color wheel, one can see that teal shimmers exactly between green and blue. This patina layer of oxidized copper is often created via a combination of malachite, which is green amalgamated, and azurite, a nearly ultra-violet blue.

Because teal is a midway point, many different shades of it can be produced, from dark to light, from more green to more blue. The variety of color names boggles the imagination: Dark Teal, Egyptian Teal, Tropical Teal, Marine Teal, Teal Blue, Teal Green, Bright Teal, Steel Teal. The Crayola shade Teal blue was introduced in 1990.

Wikimedia Commons.

Pontormo, Carmignano Visitation, 1528. Oil on panel.

In the oil painting Carmignano Visitation by Pontormo, Mary’s teal robe strikingly contrasts with the other three women’s robes. The distinction illustrates her honored position as she was pregnant with Jesus.

Teal offers a striking contrast to blue skies and stormy clouds. Throughout history, the color has been widely used for the domes of mosques, state buildings, churches, sculptures, and monuments. The Iranian Goharshad Mosque constructed in 1418 sported a striking, double-layered teal dome until 1911, when the structure incurred severe damage from Russian bombings. The dome was rebuilt in the 1960s and remains today, its color stands out boldly.

The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor was gifted by France in 1886 to the United States as a goodwill gesture. Designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, with metal framework by Gustave Eiffel who designed the Eiffel Tower, the copper statue has since turned a beautiful cyan due to the weathering of copper ore deposits.

Oxidation is produced by a combination of the minerals azurite, malachite, and brochantite. These minerals are considered semi-precious stones and are naturally formed. For centuries, they have been used in utensils, cooking ware, statues, and rooftops.

This elephant figurine is carved out of malachite. The sculpture is a turquoise color leaning more toward green than blue.

Photo by Adrian Pingstone. Wikimedia Commons.

Elephant carved from malachite. Length: 4.3 inches (11 cm).

In Harry A. Rich’s abstract painting Ode to a Quilter I Knew, a few blocks and strips of teal hold their own amidst those in ochre, rust, green, deep blue, and black. The work illustrates the power of teal’s appeal.

Greek island architecture often uses cobalt blue and turquoise for the doors and window frames of the region’s chalky white buildings, mimicking the Mediterranean sea. The Crêperie Oroyona of Paris still retains an old teal-painted door.

Photo by Robert Dimov. Wikimedia Commons.

Detail of exterior view at Creperie Oroyona in Paris, France.

Holly Walker’s ceramic entitled Copper Jar with Curved Lid was built from rolled coils and pinched into form. The teal color is made by using three percent copper carbonate in a white slip. The earthenware seeps through the glaze in places, revealing scratches of brown and yellow.

photo by Michael Sacca. Courtesy of the artist.

Holly Walker, Copper Jar with Curved Lid. Ceramic. Height: 10 in./p>

The color teal was first mentioned in 1917, the name is believed to originate from the freshwater duck, the common or Eurasian Teal, which sports a dash of the color on its head, close to the eye, and on its wings. 

Teal blue became the foundation of the Plochere color system, founded in 1948. The color gained popularity through the 1950s and became one of the few colors used to create early web pages beginning in 1987.

Altoon Sultan’s painting Long Cylinders demonstrates the alluring power of teal. Sultan makes her own medium by mixing the beaten white of an egg, called "glair," as a binder. The glair is then mixed with a powdered pigment, making egg tempera, which she paints on calfskin parchment stretched onto a panel.

Courtesy of the artist.

Altoon Sultan, Long Cylinders, 2021. Egg tempera. 9 x 11 ¼ in.

Psychologically, blue has a calming effect and green is enlivening. Combine the two and you have a wonderful balance. Teal offers a colorful haven between tranquility and revitalization, like the ocean and palm trees; a tropical beach vacation; a soothing respite for the senses.

No wonder the Egyptians saw teal as a representation of faith and truth. And the Tibetans as the symbol of infinity. Sky and sea, blue and green, ocean and land, art and goodwill—all winning combinations.

About the Author

Dian Parker

Dian Parker’s essays have been published in numerous literary journals and magazines. She ran White River Gallery in Vermont, curating twenty exhibits, and now writes about art and artists for various publications. She trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. To find out more, visit her website

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