The history of art is inseparable from the history of color. And what a fascinating story they tell together: one that brims with an all-star cast of characters, eye-opening details, and unexpected detours through the annals of human civilization and scientific discovery.
Enter critically acclaimed writer and popular journalist Victoria Finlay, who here takes readers across the globe and over the centuries on an unforgettable tour through the brilliant history of color in art. Written for newcomers to the subject and aspiring young artists alike, Finlay’s quest to uncover the origins and science of color will beguile readers of all ages with its warm and conversational style. Her rich narrative is illustrated in full color throughout with 166 major works of art—most from the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum.
Readers of this book 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.
Red ocher, green earth, Indian yellow, lead white—no pigment from the artist’s broad and diverse palette escapes Finlay’s shrewd eye in this breathtaking exploration.
Victoria Finlay is the author of Color: A Natural History of the Palette and Jewels: A Secret History. She was formerly arts editor at the South China Morning Post.
Best Art Book of 2014
The Huffington Post
“This colorful volume tells the stories of the major colors in the artist's palette throughout
history, from ultramarine to madder red to modern colors, like chrome yellow. Perfect for
the student of art or art history, or aspiring or accomplished artist.”
“This fascinating history of color in art is a real page turner.”
“Victoria Finlay’s The Brilliant History of Color in Art is a global, historical journey into the origins and science of color. Ever wondered how the first color photograph was created? Where the Lascaux cave painters got their dyes? Or why we call small dots of digital color ‘pixels’? Finlay’s lucid stories are accompanied by gorgeously reprinted art from many of the greatest artists of all time.”
—Zocalo Public Square
“A cracking good read.”
—Fine Art Connoisseur
"Beautifully illustrated with examples, mostly drawn from the collections of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and rich with lesser-known anecdotes from art history, the book succeeds perfectly in walking a fine line between the educational and the entertaining to deliver a wholly satisfying and stimulating perspective. It will please new and veteran artists, those interested in historical tidbits, and newcomers to the field.”
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Free resources for educators
9 x 10 1/4 inches
166 color illustrations
Imprint: J. Paul Getty Museum