Friday, April 1, 2011

Blue, a favorite color of many

The bluebonnets are just beginning to color the roadways in Texas now. We can thank our former First Lady,  Lady Bird Johnson, for initiating the bluebonnet seeding program with the Texas Department of Highways many years ago. Blue-violet is more the color of the flowers when they are viewed close up.

Stained glass windows, according to Abbe Suger who built St. Denis in Paris, let in light “to illumine men’s minds so that they may travel through it to an apprehension of God’s light.” Brilliant reds and blues were originally an accidental byproduct of the use of Beechwood ash in glass manufacture.Copper and zinc needed to be added in the process. Blue began to rival red for supremacy within the church, although blue never became a vestment color. When St. Louis built his Chapel and the Capet family became the rulers of France with Mary as their patron, the gold fleur-de-lis on a blue background became the family standard as well as the flag of France The fleur-de-lis symbolizes the lily of Mary, seen in annunciation scenes. Some associate this symbol with a blue iris. The flower’s vertical and horizontal petals are seen as a symbol for Christ’s cross.
Artists depicted cherubs’ garments with pastel blue in Christian 15th century paintings. Later, in Baroque art, cherubs were often shown as chubby, winged, nude infants, striking a more playful note carried over into modern Christmas traditions in which angels symbolize joy as much as goodness.
The celestial symbolism of blue made it a Chinese emblem of scholarship and gave it a wider meaning of spiritual knowledge in Buddhism. For the same reason, blue is still generally thought of as the least material shade of the spectrum, suggesting the calm life of the conscious mind, as it does in Jungian psychology. 
Joseph Itten, the  color pioneer, found in research that most people who prefer blue unconsciously chose it because it complements their skin and eyes. Blue is among the most popular colors. Sapphire jewels adorn some engagement rings because the color symbolizes truth, serenity, harmony and domestic peace, all qualities that suggest the hope of lasting love. Highly prized Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan was ground up to produce vivid pigments for early oil painters. This hue was used to designate the Virgin Mary in many religious paintings prior to the Renaissance period because it symbolizes heaven, heavenly love, and truth. In many paintings Christ and the Virgin Mary wear mantles of blue, Christ during his ministry on earth, and the Virgin while holding the infant Christ.

In Iran, blue is the color of mourning while in the West the something blue bridal 
tradition suggests love and is part of the bride’s collection to carry in her bouquet or have

upon her person when she takes her wedding vows.

            “Some say blue at its most true is found in nature but rarely, and it is possibly this rarity that has led people to seek it. That it is rarely attained makes it all the more desirable. Infant Pharoahs were swaddled in blue to indicate their celestial state. For the Chinese, blue was the color of the transcendental path to immortality. Grindings of costly lapis lazuli, from Afghanistan, were used in icons for the robes of the Virgin Mary throughout the Middle Ages. This precious color came to represent both the Virgin Mary and the power and wealth of the church of the day. Blue dyes have long been sought for religious and commercial purposes, and two dye plants grown for thousands of years, woad and indigo, are seen in many gardens. Indigo-dyed textiles have been found in Egyptian tombs, and the demand for blue has spread the cultivation of such plants as indigo around the world. Much wealth and energy have also been invested in seeking out blue-flowered plants to embellish the garden, from the absurd folly of a blue rose to the purest-hued delphinium.
            All colors can vary in several directions. Blue can vary in hue, to be more greenish or more reddish; it can vary in saturation, to appear more or less watery; it can vary in brilliance, as it is more or less diluted with white or black; and it can vary in effect. For example, when it is surrounded by orange, its complementary color, it vibrates. It is common knowledge that blue is a cool color and red a warm one. This is partly the effect of association, the heat of a red fire, the chill of blue shadows on snow.        If one paints a flat piece of metal pure blue and another pure red, and sets both in the sun for a few minutes, when a hand is placed on each, the red will be warmer to the touch. Why? Blue absorbs less light than red does. Light is energy, and when absorbed, it becomes heat.
            The color of unreachable horizons, blue also represents the coolness of withdrawal. Visually, blue objects always appear more distant. Emotionally, blue is remote, constrained; “I feel blue” or, “We sing the blues when we’re down-hearted.”
            There is no passion in blue. It is the color of the pinstriped suit of power and reason, of refined and confident contemplation.
            In The Elements of Color, the Swiss color theorist Johannes Itten says that blue is “a power like that of nature in winter, when all germination and growth is hidden in darkness and silence.”
            Blue is a building block, the primary color from which we begin to construct the complexity of our color world. Matisse said that, “Given a correct fundamental attitude, it would turn out that the procedure of making a ‘picture’ garden is no less logical than that of building a house.”

(Excerpt from Nori and Sandra Pope’s gorgeous book Color in the Garden.)

The link between sadness and feeling “blue” is fairly recent. The expression derives from folk songs sung by black American slaves and later developed into the music called the blues. An example:
“From a jail came the wail of a downhearted frail and they played that as part of the blues. From a Whip-poor-will out on a hill, they took a new note, pushed it through a horn ‘til it was born into a blue note. Then, they nursed it, rehearsed it, and gave out the news that the Southland had given birth to the blues” (lyricist unknown).
Artist Robert Genn comments about using blue in paintings in a recent newsletter: “While reading Denis Dutton's The Art Instinct, I learned that predominantly blue paintings indulge our primordial tendencies and satisfy our inner Neanderthal. New blue research at the Sauder School of Business here in Vancouver, B.C. adds:
‘Blue is the color to choose when creativity is a priority," says Dr. Juliet Zhu, an assistant professor of marketing who led the study. About 600 undergraduate students took part. While red might boost the brain's attention to detail, blue is simply loaded with other benefits. On memory tasks, for example, those presented with a red background on their computer screens were able to accurately recall a list of items. Those using a blue background made many more mistakes. ‘People are less literal and more exploratory with blue,’ says Zhu. One test in the Zhu study had pages of 20 potential toy parts illustrated in either red or blue. She asked participants to choose five parts to design a creative toy. A panel of judges found that those using red parts produced designs that were less creative. Those using blue parts came up with the more creative toys. The researchers felt the results were based on learned associations. Red, for example, is associated with ambulances, stop signs, emergencies and blood. With red one is more inclined to be vigilant and careful.
Blue makes folks think of expansive skies and open oceans--perhaps of endless possibilities---which may explain the link to creative, unencumbered thinking. Funnily, the people tested thought blue would help them with both creativity and attention to detail (66 per cent and 74 per cent respectively). Blue is liked. Blue gets a good rap. In reality, blue helps only when the task is creative. When you need attention to detail you should go with red. Apart from blue's obvious uses in marketing and advertising, blue does something to folks when it's hung on a wall. If you want that dreamy, distant look on your collectors' faces, use blue.’
Blue is America’s favorite color. The universal appeal of blue skies and water create a feeling of serenity and openness. Aqua blue is a more frivolous and sunny color. As an exterior paint color, blue works beautifully as either a trim or a whole-house color.
As Colette stated so well, “There are connoisseurs of blue just as there are connoisseurs of wine.” Analyzed by the artist Raoul Dufy, blue holds its own better than other colors. He wrote, “Blue is the only color which maintains its own character in all its tones... it will always stay blue; whereas yellow is blackened in its shades, and fades away when lightened; red when darkened becomes brown, and diluted with white is no longer red, but another color – pink.”
 Blue is in the title or mentioned in many songs, i.e. "Blue Suede Shoes," "Blue Velvet," etc. Can you think of others? If so, list them in comments.

No comments:

Post a Comment