- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Later Printing edition (2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0812971426
- ISBN-13: 978-0812971422
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (204 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Color: A Natural History of the Palette Later Printing Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Defining color is a simple matter-visible light of a particular wavelength. Or is it? It turns out that the pigments and dyes responsible for hues have many remarkable characteristics, most of which we rarely ponder. Journalist Finlay's first book is a blend of travelogue and historical exploration about the myriad ways color takes on meaning for us, whether as a matter of aesthetics, economics, war or culture. The book has no overarching theme-it's all byways, an approach that works. Insofar as there is a thesis, it is that visual expression falls just behind procreation and the search for food and shelter as a fundamental human activity; countless peoples, Finlay reports, rank color and art among their primary concerns. During her journey, both literal and literary, Finlay learns of many little-known tribes and historical curiosities: too-trusting Puritans purchasing cheaply dyed black clothes destined to turn orange in a matter of weeks; the rise and heartbreaking fall of the art of the Pintupi tribe in barren central Australia during the 1970s; and the once-supreme economic clout of indigo from Bengal-to take just three examples among dozens. To delve into this book is to see the experimental, scientific side of the old masters and the artistic qualities of inventors and explorers. This is not a scientific work-those interested in rods and cones should look elsewhere. Thanks to Finlay's impeccable reportorial skills and a remarkable degree of engagement, this is an utterly unique and fascinating read. Illus., maps.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Journalist Finlay travels the world in search of ancient sources of natural colors, recounting along the way the surprising chemical processes by which everything from stones to insects to mummies have been transformed into precious pigments for paint, dyes, and varnish. In pursuit of art's first color, ochre, Finlay goes to Australia, offering, as she does in each location, an agile and entertaining then-and-now look at a place, a people, and a color and its uses and acquired meaning. Explication of red made from cochineal beetles inspires a compelling tale that stretches from Central America to Scotland, and wry humor abounds in her search for a yellow allegedly once made in India from the urine of mango-leaf-eating cows and coverage of sundry poisonous pigments. Her quest for blue brought Finlay to Afghanistan in 2000, where she was the first woman ever to tour a 7,000-year-old lapis lazuli mine, and one of the last Westerners to see the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan. Curious social mores, serendipitous science, and lots of skulduggery are all part of the rich spectrum Finlay so cheerfully illuminates. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
"Color: A Natural History of the Palette" is a good book to curl up with at night or to read on an airplane. The reader will find enough local "color" and interesting tidbits to make the hours very pleasant indeed. This is, I think, especially true of artists who may not know much about the colors they use in their work.
I enjoyed her early chapters on the production of paint, ranging all the way from ancient Roman encaustic painting, the hand ground pigments of the Renaissance, and the birth of more standardized paint products during the Industrial revolution.
It is fitting that Finlay starts her discussion with ocre, the most common of the dirt colors, which has given us such a broad range of tones through the centuries.
In her chapters on Black and Brown, we learn the origins of charcoal, pencil, and ink drawing instruements. In her chapter on White, we learn the terrible history of lead poisoing for those who wore White Lead makeup. In the chapter on Red we learn all about the cochineal beetle, that eats cactus, and has brilliant red blood - the color often called Carmen. We learn of other reds, such as Rose Madder, made from rose petals. Oranges may come from various plant sources and show up in varnish. We hear of brilliant yellows from the urine of cows fed mango leaves, or brilliant but poisonous greens - one of which is suspected of poisoning Napoleon with arsnic infused wallpaper.
Finlay goes to Afganistan to seek lapis blue and has some interesting tales to tell about the Taliban. She ends with Indigo and Violet to complete the spectrum.
Interesting reading, relaxed and tangential at times, but well researched and factual; every studio art and art history student should read it.