Colours of Art takes the reader on a journey through history via 80 carefully curated artworks and their palettes. For these pieces, colour is not only a tool (like a paintbrush or a canvas), but the fundamental secret to their success.
Colour allows artists to express their individuality, evoke certain moods and portray positive or negative subliminal messages. And throughout history, the greatest of artists have experimented with new pigments and new technologies to lead movements and deliver masterpieces. But as something so cardinal, we sometimes forget how poignant colour palettes can be, and how much they can tell us.
When Vermeer painted The Milkmaid, the amount of ultramarine he could use was written in the contract. How did that affect how he used it? When Turner experimented with Indian Yellow, he captured roaring flames that brought his paintings to life. If he had used a more ordinary yellow, would he have created something so extraordinary? And how did Warhol throw away the rulebook to change what colour could achieve?
For the works in this book, colour isn’t just a basic artistic tool, but the critical component to their success. Structured chronologically, Colours of Art provides a fun, intelligent and visually engaging look at the greatest artistic palettes in art history – from Rafael’s use of perspective and Vermeer’s ultramarine, to Andy Warhol’s hot pinks and Lisa Brice’s blue women.
Colours of Art offers a refreshing take on the subject and acts as a primer for artists, designers and art lovers who want to look at art history from a different perspective.
Chloë Ashby is a writer and editor. Since graduating from the Courtauld Institute of Art, she has written about art and culture for the TLS, Guardian, FT Life & Arts, Spectator, Apollo, frieze and others. She is the author of The Colours of Art: The Story of Art in 80 Colour Palettes, which will be published by Frances Lincoln in spring 2022. Her short fiction has appeared in The London Magazine and The Fairlight Book of Short Stories. Her first novel, Wet Paint, will be published by Trapeze, also in spring 2022.