The Origins of Colour: Pigments and their Histories
View of pigments held in the Forbes collection. Photo by Tony Luong for Artsy.
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“Colour is a power which directly influences the soul.” -Wassily Kandinsky
Like light, colour is a potent, living force, one that can invoke moods, emotions and memories. From the clothes we wear to the rooms we inhabit or the objects and artworks we experience, colour has the power to convey any human emotion possible: strength, rage, tranquillity, joy, sensuality, anger or peace – all have their associative hues, which are subjective and open to individual interpretation. On top of this, the historical, social or religious history each shade conceals within undoubtedly affects how we come to interpret certain colours and form a relationship with them, a topic that has fascinated scientists, writers and artists for centuries, forming the subject for countless articles and publications. Whether exotic, rare, dangerous or even toxic, every hue has at least one story to tell.
In this new series, we will look into the origins of coloured pigments, teasing out the most unusual, eccentric and revealing tales they have to tell, examining how their discovery, uses and symbolism has evolved, looking at how vital moments in social, religious and artistic history have affected their meanings over time and shaped the way they are used by creative people today.