A painting I am planning is going to be mainly blue, and not any old blue either, I have a very specific blue in my head and that got me thinking about why we chose certain blues?
Blue is arguably the most important colour to us – it has surrounded us since the beginning of time – blue skies and blue seas. There are so many hues of blue from the faintest tint to almost black that really the word ‘blue’ is meaningless. When we say ‘blue’ what do we mean? I guess most people will mean a mid blue, true blue but so often we have to clarify that and add adjectives – ‘pale’ ‘dark’ ‘french’ ‘midnight’ ‘navy’ etc.
Blues can be clean and clear or muted and softer, leaning towards greys. Blue can be tranquil and calming or sad and moody. Turquoises – with varying amounts of green added are more energetic whilst dark deep blues are ominous and mysterious. There are endless adjectives to describe blue!
Blue is the colour of the divine, of heaven and is often a religious colour. Picasso used blues to convey melancholy and loneliness in his blue period.
I saw a painting at Gosport Gallery recently (Dark Blue/Black Border No.37 by Peter Joseph) that was a large navy blue canvas with a black edge – it was, despite its extreme simplicity, completely captivating and really drew me in. (You can see a picture of it here, although in reality, the navy seemed a lot darker and hard to distinguish from the black).
But how do we know that the colour I love looks the same to you? Ludwig Wittgenstein said:
When we exclaim at a colour (a blue sky) we are actually commenting on the sensation of that colour within us – we are naming the sensation it had within us.
We all have our own feelings for the different shades of blue. As a painter, I am trying to convey my feelings using colour and so the hue I chose is very important to me.
The blue I am really interested in is Matisse’s blue – the one he used for his blue nudes and many other works. My interest was spiked at the recent Alexander Calder exhibition as there were works there that, I felt, were inspired by Matisse (or perhaps vice versa!) as they contained the very same blue. But what is it and why did Matisse chose that one?
Unfortunately my research has drawn a blank. As it says on the Tate website:
But the big question: why did he [Matisse] choose blue? ‘That’s something I’ve always wondered myself, and never found out,’ says Frigeri. ‘We don’t really know.’
And if they don’t know, it probably isn’t knowable.
I have found a couple of quotes from Matisse about how he chose colours though:
“Colour attains it’s full expression only when it is organised, when it corresponds to the emotional intensity of the artist”.
“Colour helps to express light, the light that is in the artists brain”.
So I guess, like a lot of artists (myself included), Matisse painted what he felt at the time.
I have done some playing and I have come close to the blue I am after using acrylics – maybe I will make and copyright my own blue like Yves Klein did – and then he went on to paint nearly 200 monochrome canvasses with it! But International Klein Blue is a colour now, so perhaps I will invent “Brims Blue”! There’s a thought…. 🙂
It’s a fascinating subject – two interesting articles below if you want to read more.
Interesting blog with lots of blue art – Roses are red, art is blue – the White Cube Diaries.
Eight Moments in Blue Art History – Tate.
The featured image was taken last week of a glorious blue sky in Gosport, Hampshire.