New Release: A Cultural History of Color

April 27 2021

Image of New Release: A Cultural History of Color


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Bloomsbury have recently published what seems to be a rather epic six-volume edition entitled A Cultural History of Colour. The whole series was edited by Carole P. Biggam and Kirsten Wolf. Furthermore, it contains contributions from multiple scholars each focusing on different time periods.

As the publisher's blurb explains:

A Cultural History of Color presents a history of 5000 years of color in western culture. The first systematic and comprehensive history, the work examines how color has been perceived, developed, produced and traded, and how it has been used in all aspects of performance - from the political to the religious to the artistic - and how it shapes all we see, from food and nature to interiors and architecture, to objects and art, to fashion and adornment, to the color of the naked human body, and to the way our minds work and our languages are created. 

Chapter titles are identical across each of the volumes. This gives the choice of reading about a specific period in one of the volumes, or following a theme across history by reading the relevant chapter in each of the six.

The themes (and chapter titles) are: Color Philosophy and Science; Color Technology and Trade; Power and Identity; Religion and Ritual; Body and Clothing; Language and Psychology; Literature and the Performing Arts; Art; Architecture and Interiors; Artefacts.  The six volumes cover: 1 – Antiquity (3,000 BCE to 500 CE); 2 – Medieval Age (500 to 1400); 3 – Renaissance (1400 to 1650); 4 – Age of Enlightenment (1650 to 1800); 5 – Age of Industry (1800 to 1920); 6 – Modern Age (1920 to the present).

The whole set will cost £395, which seems rather reasonable compared to the prices of some second-hand catalogue raisonnés I've had my eyes on recently.

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