Reviews elsewhere on the web:
The Independent

Victoria Finlay

Colour:Travels through the Paintbox

If you want to paint you expect to be able to buy whatever colours you want fairly simply - you don't expect to worry that some will be hard to find or too expensive. Today, that is a reasonable expectation, but it wasn't always that way. At one time your painting could well have had to wait until you had the right pigment, and then you would have needed to be as much chemist as artist. In Colour:Travels through the Paintbox Victoria Finlay tells the stories of lots of many of the colours that you might see in art galleries.

It wasn't easy though, Finlay had to travel far and wide to try to find the information she wanted. Was cow's urine really an ingredient of Indian Yellow? Why was purple an imperial colour, and where did it come from? And why was blue used so sparingly in old paintings? Then there's red, the colour of blood, and as such red ochre plays a significant part in Australian Aboriginal ceremonies. The red colour of cochineal really is blood - of an insect.

Finlay writes well, and the central theme of colour provides an excellent framework to hold together the fascinating tales of her quests. Whether you like reading travel books or are looking for information about the origins of the colours you find in your paintbox, you won't be disappointed with this book.

Note: The US version of this book has the subtitle A Natural History of the Palette info
Paperback 448 pages  
ISBN: 0812971426
Salesrank: 43426
Published: 2004 Random House Trade Paperbacks
Amazon price $14.40
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Paperback 512 pages  
ISBN: 0340733292
Salesrank: 146116
Weight:1.01 lbs
Published: 2003 Sceptre
Amazon price £12.99
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ISBN: 0340733292
Salesrank: 12552
Weight:1.01 lbs
Published: 2003 Hodder & Stoughton Canada
Amazon price CDN$ 15.83
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 15.27:Used from CDN$ 2.65
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Product Description
Discover the tantalizing true stories behind your favorite colors.
For example: Cleopatra used saffron—a source of the color yellow—for seduction. Extracted from an Afghan mine, the blue “ultramarine” paint 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 today—has come from the blood of insects.