Review: “The World According to Colour”

James Fox, The World According to Colour: A Cultural History, Allen Lane

“In 1856, eighteen-year-old William Henry Perkin was at home, messing around with the dreck of a failed experiment. He had not made the compound he expected. When the black sediment was diluted on blotting paper it flowered purple — the rarest of pure colours. This dyeing substance (mauveine) would revolutionise the worlds of fashion, furnishing and art, making Perkin the equivalent of a multi-millionaire. Aniline dyes would provide a range of vivid, cheap colours in a world where colour had previously come from substances that were rare, expensive and poisonous.”This is one story from James Fox’s book The World According to Colour. Fox treats the seven colours of black, red, yellow, blue, white, purple and green, providing stories related to pigments, perceptions and uses of these colours. There are biological responses to colour. We react strongly to red (colour of blood) and feel instinctive aversion to aposematic colour combinations (the black-and-yellow stripes of wasp and snakes is now a standardised hazard warning signifier). Divergences between cultural connotations are familiar. Different societies marry and mourn in different colours.

“Conceptual linguistic constructions around colour extend from figures of speech (“caught red-handed”, “blackmail”, “yellow belly”) to the existence (and absence) of words….”

To read the full article go to The Critic here: https://thecritic.co.uk/out-of-the-blue/

(c) 2021 Alexander Adams

To see my art and books visit www.alexanderadams.art