The French Impressionists disdained laborious academic sketches and tastefully muted paintings in favor of stunning colors and textures that conveyed the immediacy of life pulsating around them. Yet the breakthroughs of Monet, Pissarro, Renoir and others would not have been possible if it hadn’t been for an ingenious but little-known American portrait painter, John G. Rand.
Like many artists, Rand, a Charleston native living in London in 1841, struggled to keep his oil paints from drying out before he could use them. At the time, the best paint storage was a pig’s bladder sealed with string; an artist would prick the bladder with a tack to get at the paint. But there was no way to completely plug the hole afterward. And bladders didn’t travel well, frequently bursting open.
Rand’s brush with greatness came in the form of a revolutionary invention: the paint tube. Made from tin and sealed with