Posts Tagged ‘color’
“You cannot get a grip on blue… blue is sly, slick, it slides into the room sideways, a slippery trickster”*…
Michelangelo couldn’t afford ultramarine. His painting The Entombment, the story goes, was left unfinished as the result of his failure to procure the prized pigment. Rafael reserved ultramarine for his final coat, preferring for his base layers a common azurite; Vermeer was less parsimonious in his application and proceeded to mire his family in debt. Ultramarine: the quality of the shade is embodied in its name. This is the superlative blue, the end-all blue, the blue to which all other hues quietly aspire. The name means “beyond the sea”—a dreamy ode to its distant origins, as romantic as it is imprecise…
The whole fascinating story at “True Blue- a brief history of ultramarine.”
* Christopher Moore,
As we dip our brushes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1886 that a gift from France was formally received in the U.S.: it was on this date that year that “Liberty Enlightening the World”– a token of friendship from the French to the U.S. better known as the Statue of Liberty– was dedicated by President Grover Cleveland.
Designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, a French sculptor, it was built by Gustave Eiffel (his Eiffel Tower served as the statue’s armature), who had it shipped from France encased in more than 200 crates, then reassembled it and placed on its pedestal on (what was then known as) Bedloe’s Island, where Cleveland took her in.
At the turn of the 20th century, a color revolution was sweeping across Europe and North America. The invention decades earlier of aniline dyes, synthesized from coal tar, had made pigments cheap and colorfast, fueling an explosion of brilliantly hued goods. Tinted stage lights and hand-dyed “magic lantern” projector slides illuminated vaudeville performances, variety shows, and traveling fairs. Vibrant clothes and dye-printed advertising posters emblazoned city streets. Vivid wallpapers, photographs, and trade postcards decorated the walls of homes while color-printed illustrations adorned women’s journals, children’s books, and dime-novel covers. Suddenly, the world looked like a fantastic, varicolored dream.
Out of this chromatic fantasia emerged the first colored motion pictures. Decades before the Technicolor wonders of The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Gone with the Wind (1939), filmmakers experimented with a variety of techniques for dyeing 35mm black-and-white prints. Colorists, primarily women, learned to paint these silent films with delicate brushstrokes, meticulously carved stencils, and chemical baths that washed entire scenes in icy blues, resplendent greens, or fiery reds.
These innovations mark a technical highpoint in filmmaking. This was the moment when the gray shadows of the silent screen burst to life with the wondrous and shocking vivacity of color…
More on the silent screen’s explosion into color– with glorious examples like the one above– at “The Phantasmagoria of the First Hand-Painted Films.”
* John Ruskin,
As we peer through rose-colored glasses, we might recall that it was on this date in 2000 that John Travolta’s passion project, the feature film Battlefield Earth, was released. Based on (the first half of) Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s novel of the same name, it was an epic failure, both at the box office and with critics, and was nominated for nine Golden Raspberry Awards (a record, until 2012).
It has, of course, become a cult film…
For Lapham’s Quarterly‘s fashion issue, designer Haisam Hussein reinvents the color wheel to show where various shades of colors were invented—from Int’l Klein Blue (Paris) to Scheele’s Green (Sweden), Turmeric (India), and Mauve (London).
Alongside the graphic itself are the origin stories for each color, which, as we’ve seen before, can be less than appetizing. White Lead, for instance, was created in Japan circa the year 700 by exposing lead sheets to vinegar and fermenting horse manure—then used by the elite class as face powder. Tyrian purple is derived from the secretions of sea snails, and Orchil (Florence) dye is made from dried and ground lichen that is activated with ammonia, such as that from urine.
And on a related note: “Pantone: How the world authority on color became a pop culture icon.”
* John Ruskin,
As we tackle tints, we might spare a thought for Alexander Calder; he died on this date in 1976. A sculptor known for monumental stationary works called stabiles, he is also considered the father of the mobile (a type of moving sculpture made with delicately balanced or suspended shapes that respond to touch or air currents).
Suddenly, black was everywhere. It caked the flesh of miners and ironworkers; it streaked the walls and windows of industrial towns; it thickened the smoky air above. Proprietors donned black clothing to indicate their status and respectability. New black dyes and pigments created in factories and chemical laboratories entered painters’ studios, enabling a new expression for the new themes of the industrial age: factory work and revolt, technology and warfare, urbanity and pollution, and a rejection of the old status quo. A new class of citizen, later to be dubbed the “proletariat,” began to appear in illustrations under darkened smokestacks. The industrial revolution had found its color.
Black is technically an absence: the visual experience of a lack of light. A perfect black dye absorbs all of the light that impinges on it, leaving nothing behind. This ideal is remarkably difficult to manufacture. The industrialization of the 18th and 19th centuries made it easier, providing chemists and paint-makers with a growing palette of black—and altering the subjects that the color would come to represent. “These things are intimately connected,” says science writer Philip Ball, author of Bright Earth: The Invention of Color. The reinvention of black, in other words, went far beyond the color…
As the means of producing the color black changed, so did the subjects that it was used to evoke/represent. Get the basics at “The Reinvention of Black.”
* Shakespeare, Hamlet
As we paint it black, we might we might retreat to the colorful, remembering that it was on this date in 1969 that “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music” opened in the Catskills in New York State. The organizers of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair– or Woodstock, as it is remembered– had hoped to sell 50,000 tickets; but by the week before the event, had moved 186,000. A last-minute change of venue presented them with a hard choice: hastily erect more/stronger fences and install additional security on the new site (the now-famous Yasgur’s Farm) or offer the event for free. The night before the event, with attendees already arriving in huge numbers, the promoters cut the fence. Ultimately an estimated 400,000 people enjoyed a (somewhat rainy) weekend of performances from 32 acts. It was, as Rolling Stone opined, a defining moment in Rock and Roll.
A personal project of tiny proportion—matching small everyday objects to their Pantone® colors… All pictures were taken with her iPhone 5 and edited with Snapseed.
Many, many more at Tiny PMS Match.
* Wassily Kandinsky
As we sift through shades, we might recall that it was on this date in 1982 that Graceland opened to the public. Built in 1939, Graceland was the mansion that was home to Elvis Presley from 1957 until his death in 1977. It was declared a national landmark in 2006, and is the third most-visited private home in the U.S. (behind the White House and Biltmore House in Asheville).
Color Forecast relies on high-speed digital cameras placed in strategic fashion centers in Paris, Milan, and Antwerp to capture data 24/7 on what the cognescenti are wearing… that data is fed into a piece of color-tracking software written by Pedro Miguel Cruz… then played back in the form depicted above– all to help one avoid appearing in public in a passe pastel. In the end, it’s a shill for a clothing chain called Pimkie… still, it’s all about au courant.
[TotH to Wired]
As we celebrate contemporaneity, we might send beautiful birthday greetings to English fashion model April Ashley; remembered for her spreads in fashion bibles like Vogue (as photographed by the likes of David Bailey)– and for being the first British person publicly outed as a transsexual– she was born (Tony Jamieson) on this date in 1935, and joined the Merchant Marine at 14. By the 50s, she’d moved to Paris and become a successful drag performer; then in 1960, she visited Morocco to have reassignment surgery. On returning to London later that year, Ashley took up modeling, and was an immediate success… which lasted until she was outed by the Sunday People in 1961. During her brief stint in the limelight, April won a part in the Hope-Crosby comedy Road to Hong Kong; her credit was dropped after her history was made public.
In 2005, after the passage of the Gender Recognition Act 2004, Ashley was finally legally recognised as a female and issued with a new birth certificate.
Feeling _____? About to head out for a night on the town in _____? Then dress in _____!
click the image above, or here, for full-screen interactive version
And for a grid version, click here.
As we reorganize our sock drawers, we might recall that on this date in 1896 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that color mattered in a different kind of way: it ruled that separate-but-equal facilities were constitutional on intrastate railroads. For half a century thereafter, the Plessy v. Ferguson decision upheld the principle of racial segregation in the U.S., across which laws mandated separate accommodations on buses and trains, and in hotels, theaters, and schools. While the Court’s majority opinion denied that legalized segregation connoted inferiority, a dissenting opinion from Justice John Marshall Harlan argued that segregation in public facilities smacked of servitude and abridged the principle of equality under the law.
At a Rome, Georgia bus station, 1949 (source)