Bright Earth: Art and the Invention of Color

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9780226036281: Bright Earth: Art and the Invention of Color
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From Egyptian wall paintings to the Venetian Renaissance, impressionism to digital images, Philip Ball tells the fascinating story of how art, chemistry, and technology have interacted throughout the ages to render the gorgeous hues we admire on our walls and in our museums.

Finalist for the 2002 National Book Critics Circle Award.

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The making of a painting relies on inspiration, craft, practice, and vision. But, observes the noted science writer Philip Ball, it also hinges on science: "For as long as painters have fashioned their visions and dreams into images, they have relied on technical knowledge and skill to supply their materials."

In this lively study, Ball examines some of the tools and materials that chemists have added to the palette over the centuries. He also takes his readers on a learned tour of what science has taught us about vision, the nature of light, and the physical and cultural factors that condition our perceptions of color (the ancient Romans, he notes, had no term for brown or gray, but that does not mean they didn't use earth pigments in their work). Whether writing of matters scientific or artistic, Ball is a technologist but not a determinist. In the end, he writes, art depends not on science but on artists, and "each artist makes his or her own contract with the colors of the time."

Readers with an interest in science, art, and the crossroads where they meet will relish Ball's erudite travels across the spectrum of light. --Gregory McNamee

About the Author:

Philip Ball is a writer, author, and broadcaster, and was formerly an editor at Nature. His writing on scientific subjects has appeared in places ranging from New Scientist to the New York Times. He lives in London.

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9780374116798: Bright Earth: Art and the Invention of Color

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Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002
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