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Colour: Travels Through the Paintbox Hardcover – 19 Sep 2002

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; 2002 First Edition edition (19 Sept. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340733284
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340733288
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 22.1 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 564,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I'm a writer and journalist and occasional radio presenter... and all my life I've been fascinated by the stories of colours. A couple of years ago the Getty Museum in California asked me to write a book on colours for them... I spent several happy weeks walking their galleries with a magnifying glass, researching ancient books in their library, and talking to their experts... and then a year or so writing it. The book came out November 2014 and called A Brilliant History of Color in Art. There are 166 (colour) illustrations. If the BBC were doing it, they'd probably call it A History of Art in 50 (or so) Colors... because it goes through the whole story of art, from Paleolithic paintings on caves to David Hockney's iPad paintings, telling it through the paints and dyes (and pixels etc) they used.

I first became obsessed with colours when I was eight years old, and my father took me to see a stained glass window in Chartres cathedral and explained how it was created 800 years ago and we were no longer able to make that particular cobalt blue.

Many years later I gave up my day job as Arts Editor of the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong - where I lived for 12 years - to write "Colour: Travels Through The Paintbox". It involved going to Afghanistan to visit the lapis mines where ultramarine paint came from, and India for indigo (and a paint made from the urine of cows or buffaloes fed with mango leaves... ) and a dozen other places. My second book followed in 2005, called "Jewels: A Secret History" (though in UK hardback it was originally titled "Buried Treasure". A publisher thing.) For that I made 14 journeys, including one to Cleopatra's almost lost emerald mines.

I moved back to the UK in 2003 and now live near Bath, working for an international environmental charity and writing for various UK and international publications. I appeared as a guest in the first series of BBC Radio 4's "Museum of Curiosities", hosted by John Lloyd (QI) and Bill Bailey; I was talking about Pliny the Elder. In 2009 "Colour" was chosen by Folio to be their gift book of the year. They completely and beautifully redesigned it, spotted a couple of Latin errors, and most splendidly added more than 100 stunning colour illustrations. It is what my first Colour book always wanted to be.


Product Description

Review

Packed with stories, anecdotes and adventures. A full rainbow ... as vivid as the colours themselves (Express)

You get your money's worth and change to spare ... Both picaresque and picturesque, it's a rich read. (Evening Standard)

This is a rare and wonderful book - a model of erudition and charm, the

writing elegant and precise, and with at least one new and fascinating

revelation on every single page. I could not be more enthusiastic.

(Simon Winchester, author of THE PROFESSOR AND THE)

It's pure pleasure to join this gutsy arts reporter-cum-scholar on her quest for historical pigments and dyes around the world ... Even drab (technically the tone between olive and puce) seems less so when Finlay examines it (Independent)

It's hard to criticise her spirit of cultural exploration and easy to share her intelligent enthusiasm . . .Packed with pertinent trivia . . . informative and fun (South China Morning Post)

Full of forgotten facts and beguiling anecdotes . . . it would be hard to confront a painting ever again without seeing in it a kind of coded map of the world (Telegraph)

Packed with facts, fables and anecdotes ... Finlay's detailed and brilliantly researched account makes for a fascinating read (Australian Interior Trends)

Victoria Finlay has unlocked the history of colour in this trawl through some little-known history (Courier Mail ( Australia))

An irresistible cornucopia ...Her travels are Marco Polish; her research vast but lightly worn. The whole book is an infectious delight. (RTE Guide)

Book Description

On a journey that takes her from Afghanistan, to the Australian outback, to ancient caves in China, and the saffron harvest in Spain, Victoria Finlay gives an extraordinary, and compelling account of the history of colour.

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 23 Nov. 2002
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book initially for a friend who paints, but while looking through it, I was hooked. It is absolutely fascinating. It covers travel, history, art and science. Needless to say my friend will not be receiving the first copy I bought. It is such an easy book to read. I definitely will be looking into other books on the subject as shown in the bibliograpy of this book. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone.
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51 of 52 people found the following review helpful By christine harrison on 3 Oct. 2002
Format: Hardcover
I've been looking for a book like this for ages. Victoria Finlay's sub-title (Travels Through the Paint-box)describes this fascinating tome well.It is partly an autobiographical travelogue and partly a history of all the colours of the rainbow. There are several useful maps and some stunning photographs - I suppose more would have put the price up too much. Because she covers so many colours there is a tendency sometimes to feel 'I wish she had gone more deeply into that,' but the excellent bibliography and end-notes will enable me to research further into those areas. This should be in all art department libraries and on the bookshelves of all art students who can afford it. If I hadn't bought it already it would be top of my Christmas list.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Christina Bravo on 19 Jan. 2005
Format: Paperback
This book was the beginning of a travel of my own. The book takes us around the world discovering the origins of the pigments of all the colours in the rainbow. Combining historical facts, trivia stories and interesting people Victoria Finlay takes us on a journey that we do not wish to end! I am currently reading it for the second time and it has been a strong basis (both in terms of info and bibliography) for my thesis about the theory of colour in Portuguese Modernism.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By The Captain on 14 Oct. 2009
Format: Paperback
A truly excellent book all round with wonderful anecdotes. A must for anyone interested in colour, dyeing or painting. The book would be improved with more pictures but still it is a clearly a labour of love for the author. Check out the extensive bibliography - this is extensively researched (one of the great measures of non-fiction) and the notes are really worth reading too. One warning; I bought (through Amazon) the 2004 paperback published by Random House. 31 pages of chapter 10 were completely missing and the rubric (first letter on page one) of chapters 1 and 2 were missing... I suspect the print run was flawed and should have been spotted by Random House's proof readers. Imagine - the first letter of the first word of the first chapter is missing....Hmmmmm.... Amazon was great and offered a refund... no criticism of Amazon is intended but be aware... my copy was the American version "Color - A Natural History of the Palette"
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Carla Sofia on 29 Jan. 2004
Format: Paperback
When you take things for granted you usually do not understand their importance and beauty. This happens with colours. Victoria Finlay's book invites us to look at our surrounding world with different eyes and teaches us to stare with fascination at colours. It is a beautiful book that takes us on a journey around the world, allowing us to meet extremely interesting people that have so much to tell on something as beautiful as colours. When you finish reading it, you wish the rainbow had not only 7, but hundreds of colours!!! A must read for curious minds....
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 Aug. 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is truely amazing - always fascinated by colour, but never, ever would I have guessed at the amazing stories behind them. So many unrelated puzzling trivials have been answered in this book, the old masters can be seen in a new light, even to an art heathen, the fact that the paintings have survived this long is indeed a feat of outstanding wonder, given the careful chemistry and make up of the materials they had to work with. A truely amazing, fascinating historical book, beautifully written, and I'm so glad I've had the opportunity to read it.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 20 Dec. 2003
Format: Paperback
Victoria Finlay comes from a background both as an arts journatist and also someone who has lived and worked abroad. This broad view shines through.
It is really a collection of stories, linked by the quest for colour. It is a rich and rewarding read, and one that is both absorbing. Yet as the stories of the individual colours and pigments are revealed and are amazingly potent, the book can also be taken in bite sized chunks - ideal for those, who like me, do much of their reading while commuting.
So, if you love William Dalrymple, are an art student, or just want to find out how lucky we are to live in a multi-coloured world, I stongly recommend this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By LeeAnn Day VINE VOICE on 25 April 2007
Format: Paperback
This is on my list of all time favourite books. I studied textile design and love old fabric, murals, paintings and stained glass. Colours have always had power to alter my mood and have greatly enhanced my life.

As always, something which we in todays modern world take for granted has much deeper meaning which we should all be aware of.

Most children think of colour as precious, and in this book Victoria proves that they are right, it has always been highly prized and has a magical and stunning history. I had long wondered where colour came from and she takes us along with her on her journey to uncover the secret.

She is a good tour guide and her own wonder shines through. A beautiful book for anyone who enjoys colour and art. Buy it for yourself and give it as a gift!
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