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Anne-Marie Moore

The Blue Period

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In art the history of color is very celebrated and interesting. No color more so than blue. Blue has a rich and vivid history that means so many different things. And always showing the meaning of wealth and opulence in art. It was an expensive color and a coveted color, at times only reserved for the wealthy or most important. Blue has had such a history since its first use in Egypt to its latest discovery in 2009. We have to understand its great history to understand how it’s used in art and its importance in art. To understand its wonderful history and see why we chose it for this exhibition. Blue has had a complex story, being one of the more rare and precious shades in Art History. Historically the color has a connotation of wealth and high status. Commonly, blue is associated with two natural features: sky and sea. Blue has had many hues and shades in history, each showing off the evolution of the colour.1 It began back in Egypt, when the Egyptians found out how to create a permanent pigment: Egyptian Blue. It was used mostly in stone art, wall art, etc. Then 6,000 years ago Ultramarine blue began its history. Though it was long ago medieval artists highly sought it. Colbalt dates to the eighth and ninth centuries and was mostly used for porcelain, ceramics, and jewelry. Indigo was a very popular color for dyes and its ease to access the color. The latest iteration of blue is known as YIn Mn. Created in 2009, it was accidentally discovered by a professor and a graduate student at Oregon State University. The name for the “Bluest blue” comes from the chemical makeup of ytrium, indium, manganese.2 Across the history of art there is blue making it coveted and beloved. It was an expensive color and a color that means a lot to artists. Yes, Blue has a long history in art and long evolution from Egyptian to YIn Mn. The color had inferences of wealth, nobility and even divinity. Since blue was so important it would only be used for the most important subjects. And of course, in Europe one of the most important figures in Christianity was Mary mother of Christ. It has divinity just by being associated with Mary, this most holy figure in religion. It also has meaning and importance nowadays in modern art. From the 1900s to even nowadays blue is an impacting statement on art and culture. It holds just as much importance as it ever has yet isn’t reserved for only holy figures. It sets moods and cools a piece down or adds a lighting that shades a scene for us. Blue also was assumed to have mystical powers. Psychologists believe blue is hardwired into our psyche. Contributing to the evolutionary development of hunter-gatherers. The color is usually considered to be soothing to the mind and body. In this exhibition we shall take a look at blue in several historical art pieces that center the color either entirely or on important persons. We shall look at religious and non-religious pieces that are well known to many people. Ranging from the Blue Quran and Cathedrals, to Mary and her contemporaries. As well as looking at the likes of Van Gogh and Picasso. This will be a journey through our own blue period.

Blue has had a complex story, being one of the more rare and precious shades in Art History. The color, historically, has connotation of wealth and high status. Commonly, blue is associated with two natural features: Sky and sea.

When we look at blue we have to understand the first instances of blue in our art history. Then being Egypt that we ever see in the beginnings of art and culture. Egyptian Blue was the first instances of blue in Art. Blue was produced first by the ancient Egyptians who found out how to create a permanent pigment: Egyptian Blue. It was a complicated process, involving stones, sand, heat, grinding, and mixing with a thick agent to create a long-lasting glaze. Egypt loved the color blue. It was used heavily in stone wall art, wood art, papyrus, plaster, and canvas. Stones that were blue, like Laois Lazuli were very coveted and wanted across the region. blue was used on stones and wall art. History of blue began here in Egypt and was a most beloved color. Lapis Lazuli was considered for a painting pigment but in Egypt all it rendered out was dull greys and dull colors. So, the stone remained a stoney blue until later centuries when it could finally be made into a painted color for art. The color had its first legs in Egypt and was thought to be one of the hardest colors for people to find naturally for art and its pigment. Though they probably had another name for the pigment to us its beginnings are known as Egyptian Blue. We can ascertain that blue, being as it was hard to make and hard to come by was believed to be used in only art that was reserved for important people and rich people in Egypt. Art that showed the Gods and art that was hard to make and come by

H. 10.7 × W. 19 × Th. 2.8 cm (4 3/16 × 7 1/2 × 1 1/8 in.) Faience, blue glaze

Pectoral of a winged goddess, probably Nut

Cobalt blue was mostly used on porcelain and dates to the eighth and ninth centuries. It was used in Eastern countries. Chinese blue and white porcelain was highly coveted in ninth century. It was very popular in Islamic countries due to its delicate nature and intrinsic artistry. Once made in China it would be sold to the Middle East. It attempted by Islamic countries to recreate the art, making their own porcelain and art themselves. Eventually, Islamic art and Chinese porcelain mixed. Many of the pieces would mix Chinese cobalt blue with Islamic motifs and calligraphies. So, cobalt is a type of Blue that is mostly associated with porcelain, it was ceramic art where it soured and made its time known.

Hard-paste porcelain with cobalt blue under transparent glaze (Jingdezhen ware)Height: 7 3/8 in. (18.7 cm)

Jug with Portuguese arms

Islamic art includes color and meaning in a lot of its uses. Just like with Christian art the uses of blue means things and how it's used means things. Religious art always had its symbols and uses of the color and why it's like the way it is. This color for the porcelain, which can be found in various countries, is cobalt and is one of the main uses of blue in ceramic and porcelain art in China. At least in the eighth and ninth centuries that shade of Blue was used the most in that type of art. The designs used in Porcelain were intrinsically done and carefully crafted. The same can be said for Islamic art which took inspiration from Chinese porcelain. 3

Cermic porcelain

Kraak Dinner Plate oka

Indigo dye was used to dye the parchment of one of the most famous manuscripts created. The Blue Qur’an. Possibly made during the ninth or tenth century, the location of the manuscript's manufactory is debated, though most scholars and articles will say that it was made in North Africa. With its mediums of ink in gold and silver, the ink on the indigo dyed parchment is used to create the script. A technique of ground gold mixed in solution is applied to create the angular Kufic script that is delicately applied to the paper. (Anne Moore)

“If God is light, one might consider the gilded words on the Qur’an page as rays of light. For those read and recite his revelations.” (Brooklyn Museum,)

Gold and silver on indigo-dyed parchment H. 11 15/16 in. (30.4 cm) W. 15 13/16 in. (40.2 cm)

Folio from the "Blue Qur'an"

Mosaic of polychrome-glazed cut tiles on stonepaste body; set into mortarH. 135 1/16 in. (343.1 cm) W. 113 11/16in. (288.7cm)

Mihrab (Prayer Niche)

Mosiac plasters

Church of All Nations Ceiling

In religious art Blue is a signifier of heaven and the sky. (Jacobs, Vivian, and Wilhelmina Jacobs) Its a sight of heaven since heaven is in the clouds and high above us. From the renaissance lens; Blue was the future. (Black, Charlene Villaseñor) We can determine that blue is important in Christian art and its entire uses. Blue pigments were famously prized amongst the renaissance artists because of its heavy symbolism and expensive nature about it. Thats why it was reserved for only the most important figures and expensive pieces that depicted those figures. We know that Mary was among the most holy figures in Christianity. In religious architecture we see ceilings depicting blue pigment for the sky and heaven. Though many Blue pigments did turn muddy and dull. So many patrons turned to this color that had such a short life. (Black, Charlene Villaseñor) So blue pigments have this short life if not taken care of properly.

Length 170 feet (52 m) Width 80 feet (24 m)


Sandro Botticelli1481

Tempura on Panel 58 cm × 39.5 cm (23 in × 15.6 in)

Madonna of the Book

Carlo Dolci1616-1687

For Mary the blue usually depicted with her was Ultramarine. Mary almost always wore a blue veil about her. So, when we see in art that blue is depicted with Mary we can determine what shade of blue that it is. Ultramarine is just another form of Lapis Lazuli that was finally ground into a pigment. We understand that blue changes and forms. When we couldn’t take a previous shade from Lapis Lazuli we waited until we could form a pigment out of it. Ultramarine began its history around 6,000 years ago. The blue shade was extremely sought after by artists in Medieval Europe. It was so expensive and essential that it would be considered to be just as precious as gold.

oil on canvas 21” x 15.25”

The Blue Madonna

Vincent Van Gogh1889

Oil on Canvas 29 x 36 1/4" (73.7 x 92.1 cm)

Starry Night

Vincent Van Gogh1890

Color theory is the art of combining colors based on the color wheel, an illustration of the primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. Aristotle said color was visible as a result of mixing lightness and darkness. That white and black were the representation of the outer limits of the color spectrum. And that mixing them had the rise of the plurality of color. Aristotle had this broad view on color and what it meant. The color theory history had a key moment was 1666 as some contend that when Newton used a prism to demonstrate that white light was a mixture of differently refrangible rays, splitting it into elements. We see that color theory was started or thought of since the time of Aristotle and we understand that color theory was important to people and artists throughout art history. The theory of color has many ideas about it and ways to go about it. Newton’s ideas about color and the theory varied wildly from Aristotle’s. Joseph Levine put it “Our best theories of color vision, including the popular opponent process theory, tell us that color experience is a very complicated process.” (Miller, Barbara L) He suggests that color doesn’t sit easily. The focus of the theory today has shifted from the what to the where of color. (Miller, Barbara L) Color changes from person to person, from theory to theory. We see color differently from the time of day to the shifting of light. We have to understand that color means things. And that color theory changes from who is theorizing about it.

Oil on Canvas 73.5 cm × 92 cm (28.9 in × 36 in)

Almond Blossom

Pablo Picasso 1901

Oil on Canvas 50.48 cm × 61.59 cm

The Blue Room

Pablo Picasso 1903

Oil on Canvas Framed: 239 x 170 x 10 cm

La Vie

Henri Matisse1913

Oil on canvas, 51 1/2 × 35 5/8ʺ (130.8 × 90.5 cm)

The Blue Window

Claude Monet1919

Oil on canvas78.74 x 78.74 in.

Blue Water Lilies

Mark Rothko1962

Print 95 × 78 cm

Blue, Green and Brown

Yves Klein1961-1961

178 x 280.4 cm. (70.1 x 110.4 in.) pigment and resin on paper laid on canvas

Anthropométrie "Le buffle"

Joseph Plavcan

Oil on Canvas

Winter Moonlight

Helen Frankenthaler1973

acrylic on canvas

Moveable Blue

Judy Takacs2022

Blue is a highly beloved color. Metaphorically, blue is associated with constancy, with faith, and with 'celestial things.’ (Roppolo, Joseph P.) To be blue is to be sad, melancholy, and in a down mood. Blue means puritanical. Blue-blazes are hell. To be in a blue funk is to be rigged through nervousness. A blue book is a book about and listing the aristocracy, a booklet where college exams are written, or a book of pornography. Blue word is an oath or a curse. Blue has many meanings for our language and what it does for us as an emotion as well as a sense of being. It’s truly a through the looking glass word (Roppolo, Joseph P.). It means so many things to a lot of people and the word have many meanings and many uses. In its early history blue was still connected to good things. It being the color of the sea and sky. Thats why it has been important in previous paintings in Art history. It meant fidelity and faith. Those reasons being partly why it was associated with the Virgin Mary. But as we come away from the historical staunchness of the history of blue, we see the use of the color in modern or contemporary art. We don’t need to see the symbols of purity, fidelity, etc. It’s more about the tone and the feeling of the color rather than the meaning behind it. We get to see the emotion and feelings behind a piece, getting the shade down and creating a new meaning about the art and the color. The shade and setting of the environment about the piece mean more than the ideas of the elegance and richness of the color. Since nowadays blue isn’t so hard to come by so it can be applied to many new pieces of art.

Oil on Canvas

Epiphany of Pandora and Eve a diptych

Rachel Van Wylen. “A Blue Pigment for Mary.” Rachel Van Wylen, February 8, 2018. http://www.rachelvanwylen.com/blog/2014/7/27/marys-blue. Black, Charlene Villaseñor. “The Half-Life of Blue.” In Renaissance Futurities: Science, Art, Invention, edited by Charlene Villaseñor Black and Mari-Tere Álvarez, 1st ed., 118–29. University of California Press, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv1f8853c.12. Jacobs, Vivian, and Wilhelmina Jacobs. “The Color Blue: Its Use as Metaphor and Symbol.” American Speech 33, no. 1 (1958): 29–46. https://doi.org/10.2307/453461. Blair, Sheila S. “Color and Gold: The Decorated Papers Used in Manuscripts in Later Islamic Times.” Muqarnas 17 (2000): 24–36. https://doi.org/10.2307/1523288. Plesters, Joyce. “Ultramarine Blue, Natural and Artificial.” Studies in Conservation 11, no. 2 (1966): 62–91. https://doi.org/10.2307/1505446. Sagiv, Gadi. “Dazzling Blue: Color Symbolism, Kabbalistic Myth, and the Evil Eye in Judaism.” Numen 64, no. 2/3 (2017): 183–208. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44505334. Miller, Barbara L. “‘He’ Had Me at Blue: Color Theory and Visual Art.” Leonardo 47, no. 5 (2014): 460–65. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43832955. Roppolo, Joseph P. “‘Blue’: Indecent, Obscene.” American Speech 28, no. 1 (1953): 12–21. https://doi.org/10.2307/454401.

“The History of the Color Blue: From Ancient Egypt to the Latest Scientific Discoveries.” My Modern Met. https://mymodernmet.com/shades-of-blue-color-history/#:~:text=Blue%20was%20first%20produced%20by,most%20famous%20works%20of%20art. “More Stories.” Colour in art: a brief history of blue pigment | Art UK. Accessed May 5, 2022. https://artuk.org/discover/stories/colour-in-art-a-brief-history-of-blue-pigment. Down, Lee. “History of the Colour Blue in Art.” Arts, Artists, Artwork - Arts, Artists, Artwork, January 31, 2024. https://artsartistsartwork.com/history-of-the-colour-blue-in-art/. “Folio from the ‘Blue Qur’an.’” The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accessed March 26, 2024. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/454662. Starry Night Accessed March 26, 2024. https://www.vangoghgallery.com/painting/starry-night.html. Pablo Picasso’s blue period. Accessed March 26, 2024. https://www.pablopicasso.org/blue-period.jsp#google_vignette. “The Starry Night over the Rhone, 1888 by Vincent Van Gogh.” 10 Facts You Don’t Know About Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone. Accessed March 26, 2024. https://www.vincentvangogh.org/starry-night-over-the-rhone.jsp. “Vincent van Gogh - Almond Blossom.” Van Gogh Museum. Accessed March 26, 2024. https://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en/collection/s0176v1962.