nicole d, September 13, 2011 (view all comments by nicole d)
Such a fun book for art lovers or armchair travelers. It combines a personal travelogue of journeys around the world with historical research on pigments, providing a fascinating perspective on art history.
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lisa_emily, September 19, 2007 (view all comments by lisa_emily)
I read this book last summer (June 2006).
It’s a pretty good book if you like to learn things and travel vicariously. An I don't mean that flippantly. Each chapter is dedicated to a color, or in the case of the black/ brown chapter which is focused on the two.
What I liked most about this book is how Finlay bounces her narrative from the stories of the past to her present travels and research. She steps in cow poo in India, goes snail hunting in Mexico then crashes a Mixtec wedding and travels within post 9/11 Afghanistan. Interspersed throughout her adventure accounts are stories of historical figures: Napoleon, George Washington and French naturalist, Thiery de Menonville.
Its an accessible read, with plenty of science and facts thrown in to make it credible, yet it doesn't simplify it's subject.
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ash229, March 13, 2007 (view all comments by ash229)
This is a fascinating book for anyone passionate about colors. I love playing with colors in all mediums and pigment types, however learning about their rich history adds a new dimension to it, and I think Victoria Finlay has done a good job of awakening the interest in this field.
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Random House Trade -
by Publishers Weekly,
"[A] blend of travelogue and historical exploration....Thanks to Finlay's impeccable reportorial skills and a remarkable degree of engagement, this is an utterly unique and fascinating read."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"A well-rounded exploration...from an engagingly personal vantage....A labor of love and a lifetime's interest expressed in a series of integrated essays that are substantial without being weighty."
by Donna Seaman, Booklist,
"Curious social mores, serendipitous science, and lots of skulduggery are all part of the rich spectrum Finlay so cheerfully illuminates."
by Boston Herald,
"Loaded with fascinating tidbits, this portrait of colors and their histories will provide readers with lots of conversation-starters."
by Condé Nast Traveler,
"In this engaging travelogue, a rainbow of hues determined the author's choice of destinations....By the time you read 'Violet,' you will have traversed much of the world, sharing Finlay's contagious fascination with color."
by Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman,
"This is a rare and wonderful book — a model of erudition and charm, the writing elegant and precise, and with at least one new and fascinating revelation on every single page. I could not be more enthusiastic."
by Cynthia Rowley,
"Until I read this book, I was colorblind."
by Robert D. Kaplan, author of The Ends of the Earth and Eastward to Tartary,
"Color is the essence of landscape, of mood, of our whole perception of the physical world. Victoria Finlay has traveled through Iran, Afghanistan, and other places to investigate the origin of all those tantalizingly sensual ochers and reds and blues. What a creative idea for a book!"
As a color, black comes in no other shades: it is a single hue with no variation, one half of a dichotomy. But what it symbolizes envelops the entire spectrum of meaningandmdash;good and bad. The Story of Black travels back to the biblical and classical eras to explore the ambiguous relationship the worldandrsquo;s cultures have had with this sometimes accursed color, examining how black has been used as a tool and a metaphor in a plethora of startling ways.
John Harvey delves into the colorandrsquo;s problematic association with race, observing how white Europeans exploited the negative associations people had with the color to enslave millions of black Africans. He then looks at the many figurative meanings of blackandmdash;for instance, the Greek word melancholia, or black bile, which defines our dark moods, and the ancient Egyptiansandrsquo; use of black as the color of death, which led to it becoming the standard hue for funereal garb and the clothing of priests, churches, and cults. Considering the innate austerity and gravity of black, Harvey reveals how it also became the color of choice for the robes of merchants, lawyers, and monarchs before gaining popularity with eighteenth- and nineteenth-century dandies and with Goths and other subcultures today. Finally, he looks at how artists and designers have applied the color to their work, from the earliest cave paintings to Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Rothko.
Asking how a single color can at once embody death, evil, and glamour, The Story of Black unearths the secret behind blackandrsquo;s continuing power to compel and divide us.
Discover the tantalizing true stories behind your favorite colors.
For example: Cleopatra used saffron—a source of the color yellow—for seduction. Extracted from an Afghan mine, the blue “ultramarine” paint used by Michelangelo was so expensive he couldnt afford to buy it himself. Since ancient times, carmine red—still found in lipsticks and Cherry Coke today—has come from the blood of insects.
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.