Making colour : an exhibition at The National Gallery, London

making-colour-hub-page-banner-655x180This exhibition reveals the colours of painting through the collections of the National Gallery. Works included depict people, landscape and the imagination, but also include the colours of ceramics, clothing and textiles. The interconnections are very interesting and the continuing development of pigments and dyes through the ages is presented through visually engaging displays.

Here is colour as theory, as light and shadow; it is bright, muted or dark. Paintings are displayed with the material sources of pigments and dyes from the ultramarine blue of the rock lapis lazuli found in remote regions of Afghanistan to the richness of gold and silver leaf. The story is told beginning with early colour theories which are beautifully depicted in books and on objects. It then focuses on the separate colours of blue, green, yellow, red, purple, gold and silver through a series of inter-connecting rooms.

This is a rich, visual journey for the viewer. It is fascinating to learn about the origins of colours, to see the beautiful rocks of lapis lazuli and how other blues such as cobalt were made during the 19th century finding their way into tubes of paint for those experts in colour, the French Impressionists. Remember paint has not always been available in tubes, as the painting box and palette of J.M.W.Turner shows; pigment was ground and mixed with other substances to create paint for the artist during his time.

Each room inspires the visitor to learn more, to look more carefully at colour, and to think about how we individually respond to colour. There are also short films to watch exploring the making and composition of colours. Our individual colour associations may not be the same. Colour is not necessarily fixed nor does it belong solely to any one period. Colours are subject to change and nuance  and are not regarded in the same way in every culture. Today some global brands may be linked to a colour although it may not work on a world-wide scale due to these varying cultural associations.


Linda Newington, July 2014