Moments of Blue in the history of art

March 07, 2019

Moments of Blue in the history of art

What does the colour blue remind you of? If you go back way enough into art history, you will see Ancient Greeks didn’t have a name for it. In fact, Homer described the sea as “wine-dark” rather than calling it blue.
Portrait relief de Claude Pascal, Arman et Martial Raysse, Yves Klein, 1962
Portrait relief de Claude Pascal, Arman et Martial Raysse, Yves Klein, 1962
Egyptian Blue
Cennino Cennini “A noble colour, beautiful, the most perfect of all colours,” said of ultramarine in his “Book of the Arts,” written around 1400. The use of blue pigments started in Ancient Egypt and it was named Egyptian Blue.
Blue was considered a colour for divine and religious representations. In the 14th century, Egyptians began to import lapis lazuli which is a vibrant, semi-precious gemstone that was later used to make the ultramarine pigment. In order to use the pigment, you had to be wealthy, as it was considered to be one of the most precious gemstone at the time.
Girl with a Pearl Earring (Meisje met de parel)  c. 1665–1667 

According to historians Johannes Vermeer who painted Girl with a Pearl Earrings pushed his family into debt because of the use of ultramarine pigment in his painting.


Wassily Kandinsky
Kandinsky wrote that blue was the most philosophical and spiritual colour. According to him “peaceful, supernatural, deep, “typical heavenly colour”, The lighter it is, the more calming it is. When in the end it becomes white, it reaches absolute calmness.”

“blue is the typical heavenly colour” Wassily Kandinsky

No Name (First Abstract Water Colour) (1910). Paris, George Pompidou Center

Derek Jarmen - Blue - 1933
The British author, artist and film-maker Derek Jarman was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1986, we learn that he gets blind and only colour he sees is blue. He was inspired to use a plain blue screen as the basis of a feature film. He's another inspiration was Yves Klein’s plain blue paintings. He created empathy and a relationship between the audience and himself.
Blue Period and Picasso
Picasso dedicated a whole era of his painting to the colour blue. His ‘Blue Period’ utilises the emotional and symbolic values of the colour. Picasso was influenced by a journey through Spain and by the suicide of his friend Carlos Casagemas.
An artist who invented his own colour- Yves Klein
International Klein Blue (IKB) is a deep blue hue first mixed by the French artist Yves Klein. The colour blue, already the object of interest and research by Kandinsky – the chromatic location of the infinite. Klein once said “blue has no dimensions. It is beyond dimensions,” he was trying to capture the infinity moment of sky and oceans. he chose to go beyond a boundary, to transcend worldly things, in the attempt to gain access to an ulterior sensibility, which was not recounted in words but was inferred with colour.
Yves Klein Blue Monochrome © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Yves Klein Blue Monochrome © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

“For me, colours are living things, highly evolved individuals that integrate with us and with everything” Yves Klein

By 1960 he had patented his own version of the colour, International Klein Blue.

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