COLOUR STUDY | FEELING BLUE
If there is one colour guaranteed to make my heart sing, it's blue. I love blue deeply and with a passion: skies that are fresh baby blue at dawn, drifting into fathomless peacock as the sun dips; duck and blackbird eggs; lavender fields, coral seas and bluebells. Blue is the colour of cranesbill, cornflower and forget-me-nots, of periwinkles and speedwell. The artist Thomas Gainsborough was so fond of blue that a particular shade of it is in almost everyone of his portraits.
The colour blue has inspired painters, musicians, writers and designers from its earliest origins and continues to do so today, with its alluring shades and tranquil depths. But there is much more to this intense colour than simply being the most popular. In fact, blue has had as rich a history as the many shades it is comprised of.
The only ancient culture to have a word for blue was the Egyptians, and they were also the only culture that had a way to produce a blue dye. Blue rarely appears in nature and the early painter's palette was restricted to earth colours - reds, browns, yellows and blacks. Blue only appeared when the Egyptians started mining and unearthed Lapis Lazuli, a semi-precious stone first found in Afghanistan about 6000 years ago. Lapis was scarce and so greatly prized, and was used to adorn the tombs of Pharaohs and the eyes of Cleopatra. The pigment was considered more precious than gold.
Wherever it came from, the blue pigment remained costly to produce. It was an expensive, aspirational colour. The colour came to symbolise truth, peace, virtue and authority, due to its use in many religious and royal symbols.
But with the advent of modern manufacturing methods, cheaper blue pigments became available, not least in paint. The colour was used to capture different moods by artists: Pablo Picasso, for instance, had his blue period after moving to Paris from Barcelona in 1901. During the next 4 years, the paintings he produced in shades of blue seemed to reflect his experience of relative poverty and instability, with gloomy subjects: beggars, street urchins, the old, the frail and the blind.
Most blues convey a sense of trust, loyalty, cleanliness and understanding. Today, we see blue everywhere we look and in every shade we can think of. It's associated with clear skies, healing and refreshing waters.