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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Colours of Art: The Story of Art in 80 Palettes by Chloe Ashby

Colours of Art is a stunning and engaging book that takes readers through 80 artworks and their colour palettes, taking us through art history from cave paintings to the modern day. It goes from ancient art to the Renaissance, from Baroque and Rococo Art to 17th Century Dutch Painting, from Impressionism and Expressionism. The last part of the book covers Pop Art and art from the 1970s until today. The 80 artworks are carefully chosen, and I particularly enjoy learning more about some paintings I have always enjoyed.

The Birth of Venus has a colour palette of pearly whites, pinks and golds against green and blue. The author talks about how the artist used a technique called ‘shell gold’ named after the mussel-shell missing containers ‘in which the precious metal was combined with an egg-white binder.’ And I learn much more about this ethereal masterpiece.

Then there is The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius. I best know this painting from the novel of the same name by Donna Tartt. It has a colour palette of white, buttery yellow, sandy brown and black, and I learned that Fabritius was a ‘pioneer of optical effects’ that, in his case, makes the feeder in this artwork almost look real.

By contrast, Dive Right In by David Hockney, painted in 1967, has a colour palette that immediately conjures up sunny days by the pool. I learn that ‘Hockney commits to an almost minimalist canvas the split-second act of an unseen diver slipping beneath the surface of the cerulean water.’

I really enjoyed the structure of Colours of Art – it allows the reader to look at works of art through a slightly different lens, and it is fascinating to learn of the lengths that artists have gone to create particular pigments to use in their work.

A must-have for any art lover, and a beautiful book to grace any coffee table.

Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Allen & Unwin


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