The color story- BLUE
This morning while pondering over topics for our conversation, I decided to discuss something different. Color and pigment are very important for every artist. But how many of us are aware of the history of a particular pigment, its origin and historical significance ? Over the next couple of weeks, we will go over historical facts of some common colors.
Today’s topic is the color- blue. According to history, humans first discovered the blue pigment approximately 6000 years back. The stone Lapis, found in Afghanistan, was very popular among the Greeks and is described as the first original blue pigment.
According to the artsandculture.google.com, Egyptians loved the precious stone lapis and turquoise so much that they invented the first synthetic blue pigment. This was called the Egyptian blue and was made by mixing silica, lime, copper and alkali. In early modern Europe, the blue dye was made from a flowering plant native to Mediterranean . Since it was very expensive, blue became associated with nobility . Even in historical paintings one can see Louis XII kneeling on a blue silk cushion. In Renaissance, nobody was more important then the Virgin Mary. Because she was almost always painted wearing blue, the color became synonymous with purity, humility and the divine.
Painters had to grind up the semi precious stone lapis in order to make ultra marine blue which means “beyond the sea”.
This was because the stones were imported from mines in Afghanistan by Italian traders in the 14th and 15th century. In fact ultramarine blue was so expensive that many paintings were never finished. Even Michelangelo couldn’t afford it at times.
The Chinese blue and white porcelain has been popular since the ninth century. China began to mass produce a very fine, translucent white and blue porcelain in the town of Jingdezhen. It was twice as expensive as gold. Europeans tried to copy Chinese porcelain for hundreds of years. Josiah Wedgewood set up his English firm in 1759 where he perfected his new technique called ‘jasperware’. It took him 3000 attempts to get the right shade of porcelain blue for his first piece.
The arrival of a new blue dye called indigo, rocked the textile industry in the 16th century. Imported from Asia, indigo was more concentrated and produced a more richer, stable blue. Fearing for the national textile economy, French, German and British governments tried to block the import of indigo in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Between 1947 and 1957, the French artist Yves Klein perfected what he considered to be the purest blue of all. He registered international Klein blue [IKB] as a trademark and the deep ultramarine became his signature.
As time passes, the history of the color blue becomes more interesting. Recently scientists have discovered an E. coli bacteria that is custom-engineered to produce the same chemical reaction that makes indigo in plants. This method called ‘Bio-indigo’ will likely play a big part in the environmentally friendly denim industry of the future.
So next time when you pick up a pot of blue paint, look at the shade and ponder over these interesting historical facts!
Until next time....