Travels through the Paintbox

Sun, November 24
Travels through the Paintbox

Victoria Finlay's 'Colour: Travels through the Paintbox' is a must-read for all colour-lovers. A collection of short stories, the book describes Finlay's travels around the world to uncover the often-mysterious and always-enchanting history of colours... 

"One day many years ago somebody told me that all the true ultramarine paint in the world came from one mine in the heart of Asia. And that before it could be squeezed sparingly on to any European artist’s palette (mixed with linseed oil or egg like exotic blue mayonnaise) it had journeyed in rough sacks on the backs of donkeys along the world’s ancient trade roads. I wasn’t sure that I believed this outrageously romantic description, but after that I dreamed of a mountain with veins of blue, inhabited by men with wild eyes and black turbans, and when I woke up I knew that one day I would go there.

"My search for this one particular blue was to lead me to other blues as well. I learned how, trying to imitate the beauty of ultramarine, artists and craftsmen experimented with paints made of copper and blood. And I learned how miners discovered cobalt, a strange and rather nasty interloper of a mineral, which the Chinese used for their most valuable porcelains and with which the medieval glaziers caused sky-coloured lights to dance around cathedrals. It made me begin to ask about the colour of the sky itself – a child’s question, but one to which few adults know the answer, although we know we should. But those things came later: my first task was to go out and get the paint that Michelangelo was awaiting so eagerly during those months in early 1501..."

- An extract from the 'Blue' Chapter

Read more about Victoria Finlay's adventures on her website

Images via and