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Colour: Travels Through the Paintbox Paperback – May 26, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; New Ed edition (May 26, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340733292
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340733295
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #935,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

[Victoria Finlay's] curiosity is inexhaustible, her reading wide, and her writing style a delight Sunday Telegraph It's pure pleasure to join this gutsy arts reporter-cum-scholar on her quest for historical pigments and dyes around the world Independent A highly companionable guide, adventurous and romantic Independent on Sunday A treasure trove of human history and obsession...the breadth of research and insight is dazzling. The Glasgow Herald This is a rare and wonderful book - a model of erudition and charm, the writing elegant and precise, and with at least one new and fascinating revelation on every single page. I could not be more enthusiastic. Simon Winchester, author of THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN Packed with stories, anecdotes and adventures. A full rainbow ... as vivid as the colours themselves Express You get your money's worth and change to spare ... Both picaresque and picturesque, it's a rich read. Evening Standard It's hard to criticise her spirit of cultural exploration and easy to share her intelligent enthusiasm ...Packed with pertinent trivia ... informative and fun South China Morning Post An utterly unique and fascinating read Publishers Weekly Full of forgotten facts and beguiling anecdotes ... it would be hard to confront a painting ever again without seeing in it a kind of coded map of the world Telegraph An irresistible cornucopia ...Her travels are Marco Polish; her research vast but lightly worn. The whole book is an infectious delight. RTE Guide Packed with facts, fables and anecdotes ... Finlay's detailed and brilliantly researched account makes for a fascinating read Australian Interior Trends Victoria Finlay has unlocked the history of colour in this trawl through some little-known history Courier Mail ( Australia) A welcome reminder of the epic stories beneath the surface of everyday life Telegraph

About the Author

Victoria Finlay studied social anthropology at St Andrews University, specialising in Asian culture. She worked as a journalist in Hong Kong for eleven years, five of which were spent as arts editor for the South China Morning Post. She has recently moved back to England and is busy researching her second book - a biography of precious stones.

More About the Author

I'm just finishing the last bits of a book to be published this October (2014) by the Getty Museum in LA - called A Brilliant History of Color in Art, for young adults. At the beginning we thought, oh that won't take much work as it'll just be an update and rewrite of my first book. But actually it's involved a whole load of new, (fascinating) research and ideas, and it's taken AGES to write (mostly between 1am and 6am when I look back at it). And of course it's going to be packed full of great Getty Museum (and other) images. I've seen the sample spreads and I'm pretty excited already...

I first became fascinated with where colours came from when I was eight, and my father showed me aa stained glass window in Chartres cathedral and explained how the blue glass was made 800 years ago - and we were no longer able to make it. Many years later I gave up my day job as Arts editor at the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong - where I lived for 12 years - to write Color: A Natural History of the Palette. My second book followed in 2005, called Jewels: A Secret History.

In the course of my research, I travelled to the underground opal churches of outback Australia, interviewed retired pearl fishermen in Scotland, crawled through Cleopatra's long-deserted emerald mines, climbed the "blue mountains" of Afghanistan where Michelangelo's ultramarine paint came from, learned about medieval stained glassand tried my hand at gem cutting in the dusty Sri Lankan city where Marco Polo once bartered for sapphires. I moved back to the UK in 2003 and now live near Bath, in southwest England. I divide my time between researching her fourth book (the third was for the World Bank), working for an international environmental charity and writing for various UK and international publications.

The main photo was taken at the Getty when I was there researching in February 2013. I was SO happy to find that case full of pigment samples. The face-painting photo was taken on the Tiwi Islands in Northern Australia where Doreen Tipoulera created the Big Sheep, Little Sheep Dreaming in ochre on my face. I didn't wash it off for hours.And the Afghanistan picture was taken at a house in Sar-e-sang, where miners dynamited for blue. I had just noticed something metallic under the sofa. It was an AK47. Everyone here has one, my translator Abdullah had told me.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 15 customer reviews
It gives me a whole new look at the world of art and how artists chose colors and why.
E. Linda Segars
This book is really loaded with historical, cultural, and scientific insights that will capture the mind regardless of your interest in the subject of colour itself.
Sergio
It was an absolute joy to read and I wish there were more books out there like this one.
tr

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By K. Maxwell on March 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
If you've ever painted or dyed fabrics have you ever wondered where your colours originated? This book takes you on a journey through a painting and dye rainbow. Through numerous anecdotes and stories we go hunting for things like the source of Indian Yellow, the lapis lazuli mines of Afghanistan, and the delicate green of the celadon porcelains of China.
One thing this book does is show the unreliability of mythic stories on the source of various colours and the secrecy and economic strength these dyes and paints held for various people throughout the centuries. You will not gain all the secrets to the various colours of the rainbow in this book, but you will gain an appreciation for how much knowledge has been lost or corrupted over the centuries and how hard it was to develop simple things like colours that we take for granted today.
This book is recommended for anyone who has ever painted or dyed - you'll get a new appreciation for those people in the past whose skills we probably really don't truly appreciate today.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Lightshower on September 7, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anyone who works with colour and is interested in the origins of things would enjoy this book. It's packed full of stories and information about the colours which are so familiar in an artist's palette. An informative and enjoyable read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Sammis on June 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
Colour is an interesting book. Some chapters are more informative than others. Esentially the book is a travelogue with the trips held together by the common theme of color. By far the weakest chapter is "Orange" in that it is more a chapter about music than it is about the hue Finlay was supposedly studying. The best chapters are "Red", "Yellow" and "Blue." In these three chapters Finlay hits her stride, tracking down the history, politics and oddities of these hues.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Robert Muirhead on November 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"Colour", by Victoria Finlay is a joy to read. Finlay combines excellent writing with fascinating information about the colours we see every day.

Too many other writers in this genre seem to do their "research" on the internet - at least that is how some of their books come across to me. It is certainly a cheap way of churning out books - in both senses of the word.

Finlay went to the places she wrote about. She talked to local experts. Her diligence makes the book particularly worthwhile. I respect writers who also respect their subject and who do the hard work to understand it.

In the chapter on blue she describes an epic journey to see the lapis lazuli mines in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. It's a great story, and typical of many other stories in the book.

In the hands of a lesser writer, such stories would be annoyingly trivial "look at me! look at me!" exercises in narcissistic attention-seeking. In this book they serve to illustrate important parts of the colours Finlay tracks down in unusual places.

Today painters, dyers and printers have easy access to almost any colour they want. It was not always like that. Many of the colours Finlay writes about were once available only from natural products - plants, insects and minerals - that came from far away places. Many of them were toxic. Many faded over time. Some reacted with other pigments and their colours changed if used carelessly.

In the chapter on white, Finlay graphically describes how one of the most prized white pigments was made from ingredients that included cow manure and vinegar. This was white lead and was used not only as a white pigment in paints, but also as a white base for cosmetics until late in the 19th century.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By tr on January 29, 2011
Format: Paperback
I loved "A Natural History of Colour".

As much as I enjoy novels I tend to read mostly non fiction(and a lot of it)natural history, science etc..
What I enjoyed so much about this book was that the author flawlessly weaves together not just the history of each color but varied stories on her quest to find the truth that are as rich as the colors themselves. It was an absolute joy to read and I wish there were more books out there like this one.

This book very much reminds me of some of my favorites by Diane Akerman (A Natural History of The Senses, An Alchemy of The Mind etc..)though perhaps a bit less poetic than Diane this book is none the less imaginative and interesting.
I highly recommended it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sergio on March 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A marvelous mix of history, culture, chemistry, and the practical, social, and artistic issues of the use of colour. I had no particular interest in the topic based on the title, but, after some strong recommendations, picked up this work and was captivated. It's quite a lengthy tome, but is easy to read a chapter at a time whenever the mood is right. Each chapter focuses on one colour (or black, brown or white), and delves into where pigments and dyes come from, how they are made, the chemical and biological hazards associated with various sources and methods, the related cultural history, the impact of a colour on historical events, etc., ,etc., etc. This book is really loaded with historical, cultural, and scientific insights that will capture the mind regardless of your interest in the subject of colour itself. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Judy Ryan on March 25, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Loved this book - history, geography, art, sociology - fun facts galore and very readable. It's about so much more than color.
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