The Secret Lives of Colour (Paperback)
  • The Secret Lives of Colour (Paperback)

The Secret Lives of Colour (Paperback)

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Paperback 336 Pages
Published: 06/09/2018
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Waterstones Says

Lively and engagingly written, The Secret Lives of Colour decodes colour in culture through art, history, fashion and fiction from Yves Cline blue to the scarlet woman. A fascinating cultural history.

Waterstones Non-Fiction Book of the Month for November 2018

'A dazzling and vibrant history of colour, from Van Gogh's wilting yellow sunflowers to Turner's deadly green and Picasso's darkest period' - The Mail on Sunday

From its origins as a column in Elle Decoration, Kassia St Clair presents a dazzling catalogue of the hues that have shaped our planet.

The Secret Lives of Colour peels back the hidden history of some 75 pigments and reveals their mesmeric relationship to our culture, from the origins of silver being the substance of choice for our tableware to Isaac Newton’s surprisingly arbitrary definition of the spectrum to entertain his own theories.

Originally available as a much-sought after hardback edition, this paperback version captures all the colourful essence of the original and can be read either as an enthralling narrative journey or something to dip into for inspiration and sometimes surprising intrigue.

St Clair also reveals similar hidden dimensions to the history of fabric in her equally stunning new title, The Golden Thread.

Publisher: John Murray Press
ISBN: 9781473630833
Number of pages: 336
Weight: 537 g
Dimensions: 197 x 164 x 26 mm


If you want to fall back in love with colour, read The Secret Lives of Colour - SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

A dazzling and vibrant history of colour, from Van Gogh's wilting yellow sunflowers to Turner's deadly green and Picasso's darkest period - MAIL ON SUNDAY

This is a gorgeous book - GUARDIAN

Even Farrow and Ball don't know as much about the secret lore of colour as Kassia St Clair... Almost every page throws up an unexpected detail and insight... Extraordinarily full and interesting...An ideal crib and a valuable resource not only for the design-conscious but for students. - Brian Morton, TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

The weirdly fascinating history of your favourite hues from an unwittingly deadly, arsenic-tinged green to Van Gogh's favoured yellow - WIRED

'An excellent, innovative and idiosyncratic cultural history that will colour your thinking...St Clair writes with style, energy and knowledge, explaining many mysteries succinctly and wittily, such as why a regular tomato is, for example, not red. Tomatoes appear red because that's the very wavelength their skin does not absorb. A 'red' tomato lies to tell the truth.. Snappily designed, with high production values...[The Secret Lives of Colour is] attractive and diverting.' - Stephen Bayley, SPECTATOR

Beautiful...See how a single colour can tell different stories across the globe. - DAILY MAIL

A work of art in its own right... a beautiful tactile book filled with fascinating anecdotes about every colour from blonde to puce. - THE POOL


From pink boys' clothes to blue warpaint; why orange spells danger and other colourful tales - DAILY TELEGRAPH

Inspiring, compelling and beautifully designed . . . this book will appeal to anyone - THE LADY

A mind-expanding tour of the world without leaving your paintbox. Every colour has a story, and here are some of the most alluring, alarming, and thought-provoking. Very hard painting the hallway magnolia after this inspiring primer - SIMON GARFIELD

A companionable, informative and lively guide to sights so easily taken for granted - THE ECONOMIST

A vivid exploration of the world of colour and our colourful world . . . St Clair is able to dance effortlessly through an astonishing range of subjects . . . What The Secret Lives of Colour offers really is, in some sense, a flash portrait of human civilisation, a zigzagging and unpredictable exploration of how significantly colour has shaped histories and disciplines, fuelled empires, changed the nature of war and caused species to flourish or face extinction - CHEMISTRY WORLD

An irresistible lexicon of colours - COUNTRY LIVING

Well-researched and engaging - HOUSE & GARDEN

Brimming with interesting facts, historical insights and curious tales. - ELLE DECORATION

Kassia St Clair is well-placed to observe the important place that colour has in human civilisation and development...Discursive and anecdotal... this book holds many surprises. Nothing is quite what it seems or how it is seen. - THE OLDIE

A mix of science lore and delightful bookmaking, The Secret Lives of Colour is for reading, dipping and holding up against your curtains - The Tablet

Extremely well-researched historically, each colour story is rich in detail and description, combining vignettes of historical actors with contextual background ranging from the ancient past to the present day. For anyone who was ever fascinated by a box of crayons, coloured pencils or the story of people in time, St Clair's book will not disappoint - Review 31

I recommend the book to all creatives - and non-creatives, too! - Dame Zandra Rhodes

Beautifully presented . . . The book is simply about colour. But colour is not simple. The history, geography, politics, scandals and influence of colours are documented here with a knowledgeable voice. With references from Jessica Rabbit to Lord Mountbatten, from Greek poets to slavery, this is a fascinating read - Viv Albertine, GUARDIAN, Book of the Year

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“Fall in Love with Colour”

Fancy a different read?
This gorgeously spotted book on colour is the perfect choice! Such a beautifully written book about the history of colours with a descriptive story behind each one.
It will make you look at... More

Hardback edition
2 similar books recommended
Helpful? Upvote 89
Rachel at Waterstones Arc, Bury St. Edmunds

“Every Colour Has A Story”

The cover all the way to the back page instantly grabs your attention with it's beautiful design!
Inside is bright and vibrantly compact with colours each with their own story that has been well researched. It... More

“A good book for grey winter months.”

I bought this as a Christmas present for my husband who does the lighting for our local am. dram. group but I'm enjoying it too. Intriguing stories and wonderful names for colours which will make me look at them... More

Paperback edition
Helpful? Upvote 49

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