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The Secret Lives of Colour

I recently bought this book, The Secret Lives of Colour as an audio book. Sometimes however, I find the audio book is not enough. For me this book was really one of those I wanted to hold in my little hot hand. There is so much useful information in it, that it is the kind of book you want to thumb back through, underline in places, add sticky notes to and probably dog ear the pages.

Many people get quite upset with they see what I do to books however, to me books are like old friends, not something you have to be precious around. There's nothing quite like a well-loved, and much used book.

Written by Kassia St Clair, this book is well-researched, delving into the history of colour from early times until the present day. The colours we paint with come from a vast range of materials including everything from cows urine to flower stamens, as well as chemical compounds that have been created accidentally. Some of these discoveries are as recent as that of the coluor YInMn a bright saturated blue accidentally created by chemists at Oregon State University in2009. This was the first new blue to be created in 200 years.


There are chapters on Light, Colour Vision, Colour Mapping, Artists & Pigments, Politics of Colour and the use of colour language and that’s just to whet your appetite. This book is a wonderful mix of history, science, and art. The Secret Lives of Colour is a fascinating book for all artists and creatives, or even those with a love of the history of art and creativity. The only minus I would say is that I would love to have seen some colour photos of at least a few of the substances mentioned in the book. But then I'm always a sucker for a visual feast.

Look at this beautiful Lapis Lazuli, one of the first blue pigments to be ground down and made into blue paint. The best Lapis, which is considered to be a semi precious stone, prior to the eighteenth century came from mines in a remote area of Afghanistan. It was thus very expensive and used rather sparingly unless you had a wealthy patron. A cheap alternative wasn't created until 1828 by French Chemist Jean-Baptiste Guimet, which then became known as French Ultramarine.

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