The Brilliant History of Color
by Victoria Finlay
Hardcover: 128 pages
Publisher: J. Paul Getty Museum
Released: November 1, 2014
Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.com.
Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Victoria Finlay takes readers across the globe and over the centuries on an unforgettable tour through the brilliant history of color in art. Readers will revel in a treasure trove of fun-filled facts and anecdotes.
Were it not for Cleopatra, for instance, purple might not have become the royal color of the Western world. Without Napoleon, the black graphite pencil might never have found its way into the hands of Cézanne. Without mango-eating cows, the sunsets of Turner might have lost their shimmering glow. And were it not for the pigment cobalt blue, the halls of museums worldwide might still be filled with forged Vermeers.
The book is written for newcomers to the subject and aspiring young artists and is illustrated with 166 major works of art—most from the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum.
The Brilliant History of Color explores the origins of pigments and dyes that were popular for painting, glazes, wallpapers, and clothing. For each pigment or dye, she told the story of how it was found or who made it popular or of a famous person who loved to use it. She often gave dates of when the color was first known to be in use and if it was removed from use due to safety concerns. She also talked about things like the move from wood panels to linen canvas for painting.
The author started with some of the oldest pigments and dyes used, like manganese black, red ocher, Egyptian Blue, yellow ocher, Tyrian Purple, cinnabar, black ink, gold leaf, green earth, ultramarine, cochineal, logwood black, cobalt, lead white, indigo, Indian yellow, madder red, graphite, and mummy brown. She then discussed the modern (1850s until now) explosion in color possibilities with colors like mauve, Prussian blue, manganese violet, chrome yellow, and cadmium yellow.
The stories were entertaining, informative, and contained interesting trivia. The book is targeted at tween or teens, and it's more a story of ongoing developments in color and their uses than a who-what-when-where-why history focused on the pigments. Overall, I'd recommend this entertaining and informative book to those looking for a quick look at color history.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
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