Color A Natural History of the Palette PDF/EPUB È

Color A Natural History of the Palette In this vivid and captivating journey through the colors of an artist’s palette Victoria Finlay takes us on an enthralling adventure around the world and through the ages illuminating how the colors we choose to value have determined the history of culture itselfHow did the most precious color blue travel all the way from remote lapis mines in Afghanistan to Michelangelo’s brush What is the connection between brown paint and ancient Egyptian mummies Why did Robin Hood wear Lincoln green In Color Finlay explores the physical materials that color our world such as precious minerals and insect blood as well as the social and political meanings that color has carried through timeRoman emperors used to wear togas dyed with a purple color that was made from an odorous Lebanese shellfish–which probably meant their scent preceded them In the eighteenth century black dye was called logwood and grew along the Spanish Main Some of the first indigo plantations were started in America amazingly enough by a seventeen year old girl named Eliza And the popular van Gogh painting White Roses at Washington’s National Gallery had to be renamed after a researcher discovered that the flowers were originally done in a pink paint that had faded nearly a century ago Color is full of extraordinary people events and anecdotes–painted all the dazzling by Finlay’s engaging styleEmbark upon a thrilling adventure with this intrepid journalist as she travels on a donkey along ancient silk trade routes; with the Phoenicians sailing the Mediterranean in search of a special purple shell that garners wealth sustenance and prestige; with modern Chilean farmers breeding and bleeding insects for their viscous red blood The colors that craft our world have never looked so bright Colour was first published by Hodder Stoughton in 2002 The text of this edition follows that of the first edition with minor emendations Endpaper map by Yoco Typographic design by Andrew Barker Printed on Furioso paper at Firmengruppe Appl Wemding Germany Bound by them in cloth printed with a design by Jörn Kaspuhl


10 thoughts on “Color A Natural History of the Palette

  1. says:

    The disclaimers I imagine perhaps possibly it could be that appear in this NON FICTION book far times than they should While I liked the content of about three uarters of the book it infuriated me at times when the author would suddenly start presenting the material through the eyes of a character imagining their experiences travels and accomplishments This first rears its head around page 81 when the tone of her book changes to speculate about an imaginary Corinthian artist I uoteBut what if she became tired of using just one variety of paint material? Perhaps I thought she may have tried out new blacks and browns Would she given the chance to try out charcoal's successors have preferred lead pencils or India ink? Would she have dyed her clothes deepest black or was it only in the palest of classical robes that she wanted to be seen? And if her boyfriend ever returned to Greece between voyages would she have used her new knowledge of pigments to decorate her own face for the occasion? I imagined our heroine experimenting idly with mascaras and linersAt this point I threw the book across the roomWHAT THE HELL It's mean to be a scholarly book about color and I'm reading a bullshit paragraph leading me into speculation about this Corinthian woman's dating and make up?I felt the same way about her handling of the character of Martinengo in the Orange chapter On one two page spread I think I counted I imagine perhaps possibly if about ten or twelve timesThis is an irresponsibly stupid way to write nonfiction Two stars and I never want to read anything else by her


  2. says:

    This is one of those books where you walk into a room finger on page and yell ‘Did you know that Cherry Coke is full of dead insects?’ at someone chopping onions before ambling away again It is a very charming and anecdotal book in which Victoria Finlay racks up the air miles trying to research the history of paints and dyes and colourings from across the spectrumIt is as she points out uite strange to think that electromagnetic waves can have a freuency ranging from radiowaves which sometimes have than ten kilometres between them to cosmic waves which can be less than a billionth of a millimetre; and yet humans can only detect a tiny span of this phenomenon specifically wavelengths between 000038 and 000075 millimetres This minuscule range of electromagnetism gives us all the colours of the rainbow – which makes you wonder how dazzling the world looks to other animals with different sensesIf you approach this book looking for hard science or indeed careful history you might be disappointed Finlay's mode is excitable curiosity sometimes buttressed by flights of speculation ‘this might have meant’ ‘I like to think that’ not sober authority The best way to read it is as a personal travelogue and indeed the book works best perhaps as travel literature She somehow managed to get into Afghanistan the source of almost all the world's ultramarine in 2000 and 2001 and her descriptions of these journeys are astutely observed and very real you get an impression of her as a good traveller and a good journalist which is slightly lost in sections dominated by her historical researchNevertheless as a broad introduction to the subject it's hard to imagine anyone could read this without learning something new and bizarre in Finlay's explorations of urinating cows Mexican sea snails Indian weeds Afghan miners Aboriginal Dreaming and eighteenth century art Her bibliography is packed with detailed further reading and she herself is full of enthusiasm and overall great company


  3. says:

    Funny story with this book got to page 112 and discovered that pages 113 to 146 were missing Thankfully Random House publisher came to the rescue and sent me a replacement copy Until it came I was in suspense about how ladies used to poison themselves by accident with white cosmetics that were made from leadThis book was interesting not only for the information about colors but also for the author's travels She went to great lengths to get to the source of some colors and along the way educates the reader about old customs and cultures Fascinating book that will fill your head with lots of information that will seem useless unless you appear on Jeopardy some day It made me look at everything around me a little attentively though really noticing the color Is that blue indigo or violet? and thinking about where that color source may have been auired


  4. says:

    I’m always on my guard when I start reading a commodity history In many cases this is an endless accumulation of facts and anecdotes often unsystematic and what is worse without critical screening I had bad experiences with Mark Kurlansky's books especially the one about Salt Salt A World History But this seems to me of a different kind Obviously this is not a science book and Finlay is the first to admit All in all this is a mixed alternation of scientific information personal travel stories anecdotes and even historical fiction I only have a problem with the latter for example when she imagines how a Jew a violin maker expelled from Spain roams Europe in the late 15th century in search of orange coloured varnish But otherwise this book stands for a very pleasant and informative read with usually also the necessary critical senseFinlay opens up the wonderful world of colours to such an extent that from now on you can no longer look at the colour texture of objects with a blank mind there is always a sometimes very surprising history behind it “If you open up a box of paints there are numerous such stories hidden inside it They are stories of sacredness and profanity of nostalgia and innovation of secrecy and myth of luxury and texture of profit and loss of fading and poison of cruelty and greed and of the determination of some people to let nothing stop them in the pursuit of beauty”Finlay focusses on traditional and artisanal dyes and fabrics namely those that were extracted from pigments of plants animals minerals or ordinary soil often after a very intensive process that also regularly involved rotting It is a wonderful world of secret recipes carefully shielded monopolies and sometimes intense trade over thousands of kilometres Apparently this whole machinery came to an end around the middle of the 19th century uite suddenly with the discovery of synthetic dyes usually extracted from coal tar They were so successful and so much cheaper that they almost wiped traditional paints off the map in a way that many of the recipes just disappeared They are now being rediscovered little by little and that also Finlay zooms in onIn short this is a very informative book which actually focuses on dye than on colour although the latter determines the content of the book divided in about 10 defining colours I have learned a lot from it The only major flaw I see is the lack of illustrations at least in the edition I had There is a small colour section but that is than insufficient To say it with a pun this book really screams for colour


  5. says:

    I remember when I was a child getting a box of paints in small tubes I was fascinated by the names of the colours words I had never heard of before vermillion magenta auamarine cochineal carmine They might have been only shades of orange purple blue and red but those exotic names gave those paints just a little magic Didn't do much for my art work but never mind Victoria Finlay would appear to have had a similar early interest in colour when her father took her to Chartres Cathedral She noticed the beauty of the stained glass window crafted some 800 years ago only to be gob smacked when her father told her that no one actually knows how to make that beautiful blue in the window any And so began her interest in discovering where colours come from and ultimately this book Part travelogue part science text part art history part general history the author has brought together a huge number and variety of facts and experiences and people into this rather large book of 440 pages not including bibliography notes and index which together run to another 60 pages It could be very easy to have complete confusion in amalgamating all this material into a readable book Probably the only way to do it with a subject such is colour is to organise it by colour So she starts at the beginning with the colour of the earth ochre the first colour used for art and decoration She goes to Australia to an Aborigine community where ochre has been used continuously for 40000 years Imagine She then moves onto black and brown made from soot coal fish excretions graphite rock wasps as well as giving us snippets about mummification and the history of printing The next chapter white is mostly about lead which was used to make white paint and especially make up resulting in the early and painful deaths of many fashionable ladies Following the colours of the rainbow the next seven chapters take us all over the world From cochineal bugs on cactus plants in Chile red to Stradivarius violins in Cremona orange to urine gathering in India and wars over saffron yellow to exploring caves in China green visiting the Bamiyan Buddhas not long before they were blown up blue harvesting indigo plants in India and Mexico indigo and going to Lebanon to search for the source of the power of purple in ancient Rome and Egypt violet And these are only a few of the stories that the author crams into her bookIf there is any criticism of the book it is perhaps that there is too much information too many stories and adventures making it hard to catagorise exactly what type of book it is I would say uite simply it is a personal journey of a subject close to her heart that she wants to share with as many people as possible It is an absolute treasure trove of action and inuiry and I learnt so much about all sorts of stuff So glad I picked this book up from the shelf of a second hand book shop


  6. says:

    Having an affinity for all things color I was attracted to the cover of Color A Natural History of the Palette while visiting the Met one afternoon about a year ago I bought it and have been reading it for the past year I'm sad to say that I found the cover to be the best part of this book The book wasn't bad but it also was nowhere near great Finlay sets about the task of researching the origins of the pigments of the paintbox Ochre Black Brown White Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet For each color she researches the historical beginnings of the colors specifically trying to illuminate why each color is named the way it is eg Tyrian Purple Indian Yellow etc She does this by trekking across the globe to the points of interest in hopes of discovering the histories and sometimes secrets of the colors from the indigenous people who in some cases still use the time honored traditions In some regards this book elaborates upon colors In some regards this book is a travelogue In yet other regards this book is part imagination when Finlay is unable to find hard and fast facts about her subject she will often say I imagine this to be trueI think if I could I would rate this book 25 stars It is mildly interesting but perhaps a bit too long


  7. says:

    Oh this book had so much promise And yet it fell flat I was expecting to read of a history book but it turned out to be a traveloguememoir and a tad too self involved for my tastes Moreover the author does a lot of imagining for a work of non fiction Damn


  8. says:

    LOVE me a book where I can pick a chapter and read up on what's been taunting my mind thus I love anthologies and various other collectionsin Color I found a fantastic historical recounting of the whowherewhywhat of much of our commonly accepted color palette And that alone means something because there is a surprisingly low ratio of 'general citizens' who knows REALLY what color is about how it's made how we wrestlednegotiatedbullied our ways into being enjoyerspurveyors of it Lot's of lessons to be learned


  9. says:

    I’d call this a travelogue on the origin of pigments and dyes of each rainbow color and I believe the only book to really tackle the history of color This book had been on my radar a while but I had decided not to read it yet a class on color finally compelled me to read it Through it I’ve come to appreciate just how complex getting pigment mix with a medium of the right consistency and translucency to stick to a surface and dry without fading or changing color over time or to dissolve in water to dye cloth and again to stick and not fade At times the author’s hunt for colors such as for ochre in Australia or violet in Tyre that start with all the drama of uest for unknown secrets fizzle because the secrets remain unknown in the end The origin and history of each color is presented here is interesting but feels incomplete as I would prefer a broad history rather than the in depth travel stories presented which leaves me with mixed feelings about this book


  10. says:

    Overall this was really interesting though it did take a month to read It saved the best colors for last indigo from the indigo plant and violet from sea snail tears There was an interesting balance maybe unsuccessful between the author trying to respect indigenous cultures or protected places and finding the information anyways by reading books published in a less respectful time or sneaking by guards She also has a habit to claim things as “mine” my pilgrims my mines my snails etc when they are obviously not hers at allBesides those small annoyances it was really interesting learn about the different pigments or dyes and the writing style made it much readable than if it was textbook less travelogue It seemed she reverted to travelogue style narration when she had less historical information to go on which sometimes made those sections longer There was also a scant amount of photographs included and there was much google image searching while reading this bookI recommend if you’re a fan of all things colorful learning where the names on your paint tubes came from or natural history


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