Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Color me enchanted! A book review...

I sat down to write this post on 2 books in my art/inspiration/history library that I adore. And found a new book by  the author, Victoria Finlay. I only wonder if I can wait until the holidays to purchase it. You know its on my list right away! OK - back to the regularly scheduled post... 

When I need a go to gift for a friend I turn to the work of author Victoria Finlay. Almost everyone I know would find either of her first 2 books interesting. Gems, history, drama, folktales, color, pigments, each, science, paint, art.... see what I mean? I wanted to introduce these to you, for your list or as gifts... since it IS that time of year. 

First: Color: a natural history of the palette. 

This book is a treat. Divided into the colors of the rainbow it delves into origins, materials, organic sources, scientific methods, history, travel, culture... The author shares her travel tales, her detailed and thorough research, both historical and cultural. Its a behind the scenes look into things that are so familiar and remain a complete mystery!

Color by V. Finlay. Available here

From the back cover: 

  • Cleopatra used saffron - a source of the color yellow - for seduction... 
  • Extracted from an Afghan mine, the blue "ultramarine" used by Michelangelo was so expensive he couldn't afford to buy it himself.
  • Since ancient times, carmine red - still found in lipsticks and Cherry Coke - has come from the blood of insects. 
Snippets from "Color..."
"If you open up a box of paints, there are numerous such stories hidden inside it. There are stories of sacredness and profanity, of nostalgia and invention, of secrecy and myth, of luxury and texture, of profit and loss, of fading and poison, or cruelty and greed, and of the determination of some people to let nothing stop them in the pursuit of beauty." ( page24)

Second: Jewels- A secret History

Jewels by V. Finlay available here
Diamonds, rubies, emeralds, amber, jet... 
Im sure you have heard of the infamous and tragic Hope diamond, of Mikimoto and the first cultured pearls. But what of Whitby, the town jet built? The emerald city of Sikait? The amber washing championships on Jantar, Poland? I didn't think so! These and more tales await you in the pages of "Jewels"! I am the first to admit that I am a "gemstone junkie" and that I most frequently use stones in my beadwork. But this is a multicultural exploration into places, gems, folklore...  that appeals to me on so many levels!
Snippets from "Jewels"

And most recently: The BRILLIANT history of Color in Art

Finalys' newest! Im so excited! On Amazon... 
Looking inside this one on Amazon, I may have actually sealed out loud in excitement. COLOR and ART HISTORY. I am in heaven. Cave paintings! Tyrian purple and Egyptian blue, gilded Medieval painting, sepia photography... 
from the back cover: 
  • Cleopatra made purple the royal color of the Western world. Her favorite was made with rotten shellfish soaked in urine. 
  • Cobalt blue was the key evidence in a infamous trial  involving Nazi collaboration and a forged Vermeer. 
  • Van Gogh used chrome yellow beautifully in his paintings - but he probably shouldn't have eaten it. 
( I searched for this last night at Barnes & Noble. To look, maybe to bring it home... Sadly their one copy wasn't not the shelf. So for now - it remains on my Wish list.) 

I know that was a very biased, enthusiastic review. But if all I achieve is to have you look up these books and consider them... they speak for themselves. Great gifts - for yourself, or your art/jewelry/history/folklore friends! 


  1. Lovely post Jenny and since my birthday follows hard on the heels of Christmas I ma be double wish listing!

  2. I'm so getting one of the color books - I just have to decide which. I love color palette science.

  3. Thanks for this!! I hadn't heard of Victoria Finlay before, but her books sound totally amazing! Will surely read a few!


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