Blue Mythologies: Reflections on a Colour

Carol Mavor, Author
Carol Mavor. Reaktion (Univ. of Chicago, dist.), $35 (208p) ISBN 978-1-78023-083-2
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In 22 short chapters, Mavor, a professor of art history and visual studies at the University of Manchester, undertakes a “visual, literary, and cultural study of the color blue” as found in art, photography, film, nature, and elsewhere. Blue is an expansive color, “‘the colour of my dreams’” Miro called it, while Colette referred to it as “spontaneous and fragile, so wide-spread that I may draw deep from the well of illusion.” Mavor (Black and Blue) draws upon many artists and writers; within the space of a few pages she refers to or quotes from Giotto, Emily Dickinson, Derek Jarman, and Francisco de Zurbarán. The color plates reveal an astonishing variety of shades, from the blue-tinged grey of Gauguin’s Little Girl Dreaming to the rich purple of Yves Klein’s painting People Begin to Fly” to the foggy light-blue sky and cliff in Fred Holland Day’s photograph, Nude Youth in Rocky Landscape. Mavor’s evocative and insightful prose can sometimes be cryptic: “If blue is the light that got lost, is nothing, then blue is the most pure form of desire.” Curiously, except for a passing reference to “melancholy blue,” there is little discussion of the color’s association with sadness. This fine, multi-disciplinary work explores the color’s aesthetic and emotional resonances from a fresh perspective. 59 color plates. (June)
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