In a new podcast episode from Yale University Press, author Kelly Grovier talks about his new book, The Art of Colour: The History of Art in 39 Pigments. “Pigments are the syllables art speaks in,” Grovier writes in the book. “To understand what they are saying, it may be helpful to trace their discovery and track the gradual accrual of connotations over time. Where etymology involves establishing a word’s genesis and evolution, perhaps we might call the approach pursued here, of mapping the emergence of a given pigment in order to appreciate more profoundly its significance in a given work, something analogous: artymology.”
In the podcast, Grovier talks about the history of bone black, ultramarine, mummy brown, Indian yellow, and more. He makes a compelling case that reconstructing the forgotten myths and little-known scientific discoveries behind the creation of specific pigments can help us understand in a new way how the colors in a given artwork affect us, and ultimately enrich our experience of art. It’s a fresh approach to the history of color, and Grovier presents an exciting search for intriguing and unusual stories; in his telling, a color’s connotations are never fixed but are endlessly evolving.