Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Am I Blue? Yes, I am!

Blue is one of the most ubiquitous color on this planet. Did you know that the ancients considered blue a lesser color than purple or red?

The lack of high regard for blue was because it was neither costly nor rare. Typical sources for blue were azurite (copper carbonate) in the Mediterranean region and plant leaves in northern Europe. (The early Greeks had no word for shades of blue. All blues were referred to as "kuanos" from which we get the word, "cyan.") This low regard for blue would change with the discovery of Ultramarine.

Ultramarine ("from beyond the sea") was extracted from lapis lazuli. It was a beautiful blue ranging from royal blue to purple blue. The rarity of lapis and the effort required to extract the pigment made ultramarine blue more expensive than gold.

With the 19th century industrialization, ways were found to synthesize blues and led to the development of Cerulean and Prussian blues. What about that stunning color and stunningly expensive Ultramarine?

In 1824, the French Industrial Society offered 6,000 francs to anyone who could create an artificial Ultramarine. Four years later, M. Guimet won the prize and we have him to thank for this extraordinary blue being available to all artists. (How else could Picasso have had a blue period?)

If you close your eyes and envision blue, what is the image/emotion that you associate with that color?


  1. That was interesting. I didn't know the blue was ever a lesser color. I thought it was more important because of names like royal blue. I learn so much from these weekly blogs. ellen

  2. Aren't we lucky to have the huge array of colors available to us? Just think of having to grind the pigments to make our own paints and dyes, after finding the raw materials. Like ellen, I thought of blue as a common color.


  3. cold water, warm skies


  4. So nice to be signed up and getting my weekly art lessons again. Connie