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Bright Earth: Art and the Invention of Color Paperback – April 15, 2003
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In this lively study, Ball examines some of the tools and materials that chemists have added to the palette over the centuries. He also takes his readers on a learned tour of what science has taught us about vision, the nature of light, and the physical and cultural factors that condition our perceptions of color (the ancient Romans, he notes, had no term for brown or gray, but that does not mean they didn't use earth pigments in their work). Whether writing of matters scientific or artistic, Ball is a technologist but not a determinist. In the end, he writes, art depends not on science but on artists, and "each artist makes his or her own contract with the colors of the time."
Readers with an interest in science, art, and the crossroads where they meet will relish Ball's erudite travels across the spectrum of light. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
He amply supports this modest thesis. But fortunately for the reader, he is less interested in pushing a point than in telling a story. It's also a stroke of our good fortune that he rambles as he tells it. Ball is first of all an accomplished science writer, but his interests are very wide. Yes, he tells us all we need to know about the physics of light, and the inorganic and organic chemistry that have made the painter's palette steadily more vibrant with the passing centuries. He also gives us the technology behind the colors, and with this book as a key one might, if one had to, reconstruct many of the most important, and often closely guarded, color recipes of the ancients and the Old Masters. But he also limns the rise and fall of many of the strongest currents in Western art; painting's interaction with religion and commerce, and how its schools rose and fell and squabbled. Nor does he neglect philology; I loved learning where all those strange names on the tubes of oil paint come from.
The secret life of pigments is a rich subject, of which Ball has clearly made himself a master. Fascinating facts and boldly drawn connections tumble after one another, and there's not a single ounce of padding anywhere.Read more ›
I had read Vauxcelles' comment elsewhere, but in Ball's retelling, the quip makes complete sense. The cages are the framed canvases. The colors are wild like the exotic beasts brought to Europe from faraway places. These colors were virtually unknown before the late 19th Century and the rise of the petrochemical industry. Like Van Gogh and Gauguin before and Picasso after the Fauvists used these pigments in unnatural ways.
Generally, art histories divert one into a discussion about lighting, atmosphere, iconography, brush stokes, or composition. Color is discussed but usually as an adjunct or afterthought. In BRIGHT EARTH, color IS the organizing principle--and it makes all the difference. The light in Monet's boating scene bounces off the water because the waves are composed of tiny flecks of violet and yellow. Van Gogh's Sunflowers have the tone they do because he liked to experiment with color and he used an unstable lemon-yellow pigment that has deteriorated over time.Read more ›
In particular, I now understand how 19th century breakthroughs in color science were crucial to Modern Art.
The pages of this book hold one revelation after another... you won't skip a chapter.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I loved the cathedral book he wrote, see my review. I pretty much hate this book, see my review of his book about music.
Great book for those interested in the fine details of where paint comes fromPublished 13 months ago by sodiumsulfate
What an interesting book and topic. It seem like I can dip into almost any page and learn a bit of interesting and perhaps useful information.Published 14 months ago by James
I had no idea colours were so complicated. I have used the information to help me in my acrylic paintings.Published 18 months ago by Linda Sanford
This has the makings of a classic, a must read for all artists. It's content about color is exceptional for the understanding and application of color principles.Published 24 months ago by Diane Myers