The subject of this book is humankind’s extraordinary relationship with colour.
It is composed of a series of voyages, ranging across the world and throughout history, which reveal the meanings that have been attached to the colours we see around us and the ways these have shaped our culture and imagination.
It takes seven primary colours – black, red, yellow, blue, white, purple and green – and uncovers behind each a root idea, based on visual resemblances or properties so rudimentary as to be common to all societies. The book traces these meanings to show how they changed and multiplied, the role that they have played in our culture and history, and how understanding them allows us to see many of the milestones in the history of art – from Bronze Age gold-work to Turner, Titian to Yves Klein – in a new way.
It proceeds by stories, which cumulatively tell another, larger one: a history of the world from the black nothing which preceded existence to the birth of our red-blooded species; the gilded gods who animated the world in antiquity to the blue horizons which framed the Age of Discovery; the pristine aspirations of Enlightenment, the technicolour innovation which fuelled the Industrial Revolution and the colour which most embodies the environmental crisis which now faces us.
‘This book is a triumph. James Fox’s passionate and illuminating exploration of the extraordinary relationship we have with colour is itself extraordinary. It is an intellectual feast as well as a visual one – a true biography of colour which will delight readers.’ Edmund de Waal, author of The Hare with Amber Eyes