The book I have just finished is The Secret Lives of Colour and the book it reminded me of is The Cook’s Companion by Stephanie Alexander and that is where the similarity ends, at their covers.
The links on this screenshot won’t work but here is the link to Colour makes people happy. Well worth a visit.
“The Secret Lives of Color tells the unusual stories of seventy-five 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 colors and where they come from (whether Van Gogh’s chrome yellow sunflowers or punk’s fluorescent pink) into a unique study of human civilization. Across fashion and politics, art and war, the secret lives of color tell the vivid story of our culture.”
The book by Kassia St. Clair is an absolute gem if you have any interest in colour whatsoever. While reading the book I was constantly referring to the internet to check out various examples that she mentions when talking about particular colours. eg. I didn’t know of Anish Kapoor so needed to check him out when he was mentioned in the chapter on the colour red.
There are so many interesting aspects to colour but here are just a few.
When writing about
The colour “nude”:
“We all know that nude is a spectrum and not a shade, it is high time the world around us reflected that too.”
The colour Indigo:
In the British Museum there is a small clay tablet form between 600 and 500 BC which has the instructions for dyeing wool dark blue.. . . the dye was indigo.
The colour green:
When talking about the irrational dislike of green: “Wassily Kandinsky said “Absolute green is the most anesthetising colour possible . . . similar to a fat cow, full of good health, lying down, rooted, capable only of ruminating and contemplating the world through its stupid inexpressive eyes.”
The colour Absinthe:
Made from a concoction of plants and aromatics, wormwood, aniseed, fennel and wild marjoram. As well as being a dye it was made into a drink and led to what became known in France as “the green hour” between 5 and 6pm in the latter half of the 19th Century.
Highly recommend this book.