Bright Earth by Philip Ball
Art and the Invention of Color

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A fascinating study of the evolution of color in art and science from antiquity to the present.

For art in the twentieth century, medium is the message. Many artists offer works defined by their materials. In no aspect is this more strikingly demonstrated than in the use of color.

Bright Earth is the story of how color evolved and was produced for artistic and commercial use. The modern chemical industry was spawned and nurtured largely by the demand for color as many of today's major chemical companies began as manufacturers of aniline dye; advances in synthetic chemistry, both organic and inorganic, were stimulated in the nineteenth century by the quest for artificial colors. The future holds still more challenges for the color chemist, not only to provide new coloring materials, but also to replace old ones that will shortly become extinct, as concerns about the use of lead and cadmium pigments increase.

In Bright Earth, Philip Ball brings together the themes of art and science to show that chemical technology and the use of color in art have always existed in a symbiotic relationship that has shaped both their courses throughout history. By tracing their co-evolution, Ball reveals how art is more of a science, and science more of an art, than is commonly appreciated on either side of the fence.

About Philip Ball

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Philip Ball majored in chemistry at the University of Oxford and received a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Bristol. He worked for ten years as an editor at Nature, and is the author, most recently, of Life's Matrix: A Biography of Water. He lives i+n London.
Published February 20, 2002 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 384 pages
Genres: History, Arts & Photography, Science & Math, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Though Ball, a chemist, is more inclined toward scientific description than aesthetic judgment, he is quick to point out that although science has always accompanied artistic advances, it is “a mistake to assume that the history of color in art is an accumulation of possibilities proportional to ...

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The Guardian

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Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour Philip Ball 434pp, Viking, £18.99 Blue: The History of a Colour Michel Pastoureau 216pp, Princeton, £24.95 Grains of sand grit the ground of a Monet seascape, proving that he really did paint in the open air.

Jan 26 2002 | Read Full Review of Bright Earth: Art and the Inv...

Publishers Weekly

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(Feb.)Forecast:A good bet for the scientifically inclined who want a grounded entry point to the arts, this book will also stretch out to art fans who want writing well-versed in art's physical bases.

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Project MUSE

Vincent van Gogh's palette may have contained very few pigments, but he knew how to use contrasting colors, those known as complementary colors, such as blue and orange, or brown and green, to great effect.

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