listen to part of a lecture in an art history class.
Okay. So, when we were discussing Gainsborough’s painting, the Blue boy, which he painted in 1770,
I mentioned the story that the painting might’ve been an experiment, the result of a challenge.
It was believed that blue couldn’t be an important color in a painting
because...well...it tends to recede into the background, not good for your main subject, right?
So to show otherwise, Gainsborough created the Blue Boy, with the boy featured large in his famous blue clothes...and...well...I guess he proved his point.
But there was another challenge to blue, it was very very expensive back then.
Now of course, because of modern chemistry, any color is available in tubes at any art supply store.
But in the 18th century and before, it wasn’t so easy.
And blue...well...the color ultramarine, the most desired shade of blue, was made from the precious stone, Lapis Lazuli,
which had to be imported all the way from Afghanistan.
And the second most favorite shade of blue, after ultramarine made from Laps Lazuli, was a shade a blue that came from another precious stone, Azurite.
But Azurite was...well...harder to work with, there’s evidence that artists would try to get around these difficulties.
For example, use pigment from lapis lazuli or azurite very sparingly, and also use something cheaper, like smalt, which was made of ground glass.
Thing is, smalt became discolored over time, so many artists probably avoided blues altogether rather than use something cheap and impermanent.