The Art of Colour


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The History of Art in 39 Pigments

Kelly Grovier

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A captivating new history of art told through the storied biographies of colors and pigments

In this refreshing approach to the history of color, Kelly Grovier takes readers on an exciting search for the intriguing and unusual. In Grovier’s telling, a color’s connotations are never fixed but are endlessly evolving. Knowledge of a pigment and its history can unlock meaning in the works that feature it. Grovier employs the term “artymology” to suggest that color is a linguistic device, where pigments stand in for syllables in art’s language. Color is the site of invigorating conflict—a battleground where past and present, influence and originality, and superstition and science merge into meanings that complicate and intensify our appreciation of a given work. How might it change our understanding of a well-known masterpiece like Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night to know that the intense yellow moon in that painting was sculpted from clumps of dehydrated urine from cows that were fed nothing but mango leaves? Or that the cobalt blue pigment in Van Gogh’s sky shares a material bloodline with the glaze of Ming Dynasty porcelain? Consisting of ten chapters, each presenting a biography of a family of colors, this volume mines a rich vein of pigmentation from prehistoric cave painting to art of the present day. The book also includes beautifully designed features exploring important milestones in the history of color theory from the Enlightenment to the twentieth century.

Kelly Grovier is an acclaimed poet, columnist, and feature writer for BBC Culture. He is the author of several books, including A New Way of Seeing: The History of Art in 57 Works.

ISBN: 9780300267785
Publication Date: May 16, 2023
256 pages, 6 3/4 x 9 3/4
141 color illus.

Sales Restrictions: For sale in North America only
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Sean Scully at the National Gallery

Daniel F.

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