A few books on the history of pigments and colors

Books on the history of pigments and colors
First of all, this is not an end-of-year book list, or a series of reviews, or even recommendations.

I just realized there seems to be a kind of mini-genre of books about the history of various pigments and colors, many of which are of interest in terms of artist’s pigments.

I haven’t read these, I’ve simply noticed them and selected a few that seem potentially relevant to artists. I’m only presenting them as a kind of FYI that they exist.

The capsule descriptions and reviews on Amazon should provide clues to those you might find interesting. Some are out of print, but appear to be available used.

Rarest Blue: The Remarkable Story Of An Ancient Color Lost To History And Rediscovered, 2012; Baruch Sterman

A Red Like No Other: How Cochineal Colored the World, 2015, edited by Carmella Padilla and Barbara Anderson

A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire, 2006, by Amy Butler Greenfield

Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World, 2002, Simon Garfield

The Brilliant History of Color in Art, 2014, by Victoria Finlay

Color: A Natural History of the Palette, 2002, by Victoria Finlay

Bright Earth: Art and the Invention of Color, 2003, by Phillip Ball

5 Replies to “A few books on the history of pigments and colors”

  1. Great list, Armand. Can’t wait to check out some of those. Another interesting recent book is “A Strange Business: A revolution in Art, Culture, and Commerce in 19th Century London.” It’s about the business and science of art more generally, but there’s a good chapter on the Colourman.

  2. Thanks, Charley.
    And here I come to post a comment to suggest including James Gurney’s excellent book, “Color and Light, A Guide for the Realist Painter” (especially chapter 5), in your list, and there he is posting another interesting addition.
    Thanks, James. I’ll check them all out this weekend.



  3. I really enjoyed Victoria Finlay’s “Color: A Natural History of the Palette”. I would highly recommend it to any nerdly artists like myself who thinks pigments, and the history behind them, is interesting.

Comments are closed.