The Secret Lives of Colour

The Secret Lives of Colour

Book - 2016
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'A mind-expanding tour of the world without leaving your paintbox. Every colour has a story, and here are some of the most alluring, alarming, and thought-provoking. Very hard painting the hallway magnolia after this inspiring primer.'
Simon Garfield

The Secret Lives of Colour tells the unusual stories of the 75 most fascinating shades, dyes and hues. From blonde to ginger , the brown that changed the way battles were fought to the white that protected against the plague, Picasso's blue period to the charcoal on the cave walls at Lascaux, acid yellow to kelly green , and from scarlet women to imperial purple , these surprising stories run like a bright thread throughout history. In this book Kassia St Clair has turned her lifelong obsession with colours and where they come from (whether Van Gogh's chrome yellow sunflowers or punk's fluorescent pink ) into a unique study of human civilisation. Across fashion and politics, art and war, The Secret Lives of Colour tell the vivid story of our culture.

Publisher: London, England : John Murray, ©2016
ISBN: 9781473630819
Characteristics: 319 pages :,colour illustrations ;,22 cm.


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Dec 18, 2019

Interesting for:
* humanity's historic view of colours as inferred from colour names in ancient texts (would have appreciated more detail on this topic);
* the source, availability, preparation, and use of colour pigments and how this affected renaissance painters and their art;
* how different cultures emphasize certain colours through naming and privileged use; and
* how different colours can affect us psychologically.

Nov 15, 2019

Recommended as bathroom reading.

Nov 05, 2019

Unusual and interesting. The short essays on individual colours are full of fascinating information and trivia. The author uses a wide range of references (art, clothing, language). Very enjoyable.

Sep 24, 2019

Some of the stories were very interesting but as I read through each colour I felt like I was reading the same thing over and over. Toxic. Expensive. How each colour was used by artists. I think this book may be suited only to those who are terribly passionate about colour.

The design and typography of the book are beautiful and, though I got bored with the content, the writing was well done.

Dec 27, 2018

Five orpiment stars! This is a book for anyone interested in colour and history. It is a series of well-written (and colour-coded) short stories about hues that pique the curiousity: gamboge, puce, saffron, heliotrope.

Jun 21, 2018

I am recommending this book to all my friends who think they no longer have time for a good book. Each short chapter stands alone and they are all thought provoking.

JudyK_KCMO Jun 18, 2018

How is color defined? How did different hues get their names and where did they come from?
Author Kassia St. Clair explores the color spectrum from white to black. Shades go in and out of fashion throughout the centuries. Pigments come from plants, chemist experimentation or just plain luck. This fascinating history will make one look at the varies tints in everyday life with a new set of eyes.

Mar 02, 2018

75 stories based on 75 unique colours.

Stories from the political (peasants wore russet while royal wore mauve and scarlet), to chemistry tales (lead white production lead to illnesses), to natural dyes (gamboge comes from tree sap), to the psychological (the unknown space in pitch black).

A recommended read for artists and art history buffs.

SkokieStaff_Steven Jan 23, 2018

What happened to the survivors when a boat containing red dye collided with a boat containing brown dye? They were marooned. Oddly enough, this hilariously funny joke does not appear in Kassia St. Clair’s “The Secret Lives of Color,” nor, for that matter, does the color maroon. However, she doesn’t leave much else out in her richly learned collection of short, mostly historical essays on colors. (Is it any wonder that someone named “Kassia St. Clair” should have a regular column in “Elle Decoration,” the seedbed for this book? She also writes for the "Economist,” so go figure.) One of the themes running through this book is that for almost all of human history, colors used for painting or dying were usually rare, expensive, difficult to produce, or even toxic (just ask Napoleon about his arsenic-laced green wallpaper). We now live in a world awash in color, and that’s something we should never take for granted. St. Clair reminds us how far we have come.

Oct 07, 2017

A very pleasing book on many levels. The prose is elegant, dramatic and engaging. If you're not only a lover of colour but also of history, fashion, chemistry, minerology and etymology, this is the book for you! A beauty.

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Jan 08, 2019

Mazout thinks this title is suitable for All Ages


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