Exterior: Overseas | Interlochen Public Radio

Calling Grand Traverse Bay blue doesn’t do it justice – I think the color is ultramarine.

The cover of Blue: A History of Color states that “every history of color is above all a social history”.

The author studies how the ever-changing role of blue in society has been reflected in manuscripts, stained glass, heraldry, clothing, painting, and popular culture.

Remarkably, the color we call blue is not mentioned in ancient literature or much used in Western art, even in the Middle Ages and medieval times, probably because the blue pigment was simply too expensive and too hard to get.

Not to be confused with gemstone aquamarine, ultramarine is made from a rare semi-precious stone called lapis lazuli.

Lapis was mined in Afghanistan and then shipped to Europe, ‘ship’ being the key word here – ‘overseas’ means ‘across the sea’.

Lapis lazuli was extremely expensive, beyond the reach of most artists, and to prepare the paint the rocks were ground with a mortar and the powder mixed with oil and honey then kneaded with alkali, so paintings and frescoes rarely had blue or blue skies. the water.

Ultramarine, if used, could be used for the robes of the Virgin Mary or perhaps an important figure in a painting.

Although still ridiculously expensive and difficult to prepare, ultramarine became more available and popular with artists in the 14th and 15th centuries.

The history of blue was influenced by the Protestant Reformation, the availability of indigo and coal balls and other pigments, scientists, philosophers and of course the Impressionists who painted what they saw , and they saw blue sky and blue water.

But because in 1828 a synthetic ultramarine was invented, they used exclusively French ultramarine.

On certain days when the sun is at the right angle and the water is at the right depth, the bay takes on the color of the mineral lapis lazuli, a color known as ultramarine.

About Timothy Cheatham

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