Style Court

Nine Years of Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes

12.26.2014

Into the Blue

[Book open to an image by Francois Halard]

Up for binge watching a little art history?

A few years ago, scholar and BBC broadcaster James Fox presented A History of Art in Three Colours, a multi-part documentary in which he explores blue, gold, and white. All of the segments are riveting (think gold as embraced by the Egyptians and later by Klimt, and imagine Whistler's white) but lately I've been focused on Dr. Fox's blue narrative.


To convey just how rarefied and tantalizing lapis-blue was to medieval Venetians, he shows the laborious process by which the lapis stone was transformed into brilliant ultramarine paint, and he visits Giotto's star-flecked, deep-blue, 14th-century barrel-vaulted ceiling within the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. Fox sees blue as an adventurous color, sometimes exotic and technically always a bit out of reach.

By the late 20th century, blue pigments weren't so rare but the application of blue paint on a Manhattan patio stairway -- a detail I spied in the 2001 book, House & Garden Book of Style -- still has an adventurous spirit.

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