Color: A Natural History of the Palette

Victoria Finlay
The history of paint and dye pigments may sound a bit boring, but Victoria Finlay manages to combine technical information, fascinating trivia, art history and richly drawn accounts of her travels in this entertaining and unusual book. She addresses the significance of each color's symbolism in different cultures and at different time periods as she journeys to lapis lazuli mines tracing the source of ultramarine blue, or to indigo or saffron fields. Some of the most fascinating tales are of the pigments which are deadly poison, yet so sought after by artists even today. Finlay shows a keen insight into the creative mind as she analyzes the choices and attitudes artists have about such poisonous pigments as lead white and gamboge yellow. This book will still appeal to those who don't have a particular interest in art because of the quirky history trivia and the globe-trotting adventures. If nothing else, it is worth reading Color to find out what popular American beverage is colored with the blood of South American beetles.