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Power of Color: Five Centuries of European Painting

by Marcia B. Hall Yale University Press
Pub Date:
Hbk 304 pages
AU$86.99 NZ$91.30
Product Status: In Stock Now
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This expansive study of colour illuminates the substance, context and meaning of five centuries of European painting. Between the mid-fifteenth and the mid-nineteenth centuries, the materials of painting remained remarkably unchanged, but innovations in their use flourished. Technical discoveries facilitated new visual effects, political conditions prompted innovations and economic changes shaped artists’ strategies, especially as trade became global.


Marcia Hall explores how Michelangelo radically broke with his contemporaries’ harmonising use of colour in favour of a highly saturated approach; how the robust art market and demand for affordable pictures in seventeenth-century Netherlands helped popularise subtly coloured landscape paintings; how politics and colour became entangled during the French Revolution; and how modern artists liberated colour from representation as their own role transformed from manipulators of pigments to visionaries celebrated for their individual expression. Using insights from recent conservation studies, Hall captivates readers with fascinating details and developments in magnificent examples – from Botticelli and Titian to Van Gogh and Kandinsky – to weave an engaging analysis. Her insistence on the importance of examining technique and material to understand artistic meaning gives readers the tools to look at these paintings with fresh eyes.
“[A] sumptuously illustrated survey” —Barbara Kiser, Nature

“Marcia Hall covers a familiar historical path but in a way that encourages readers to look at works of art through a different and more subtle lens. She explains and illustrates her argument with wonderful clarity.”—Jo Kirby, formerly Senior Scientific Officer, National Gallery, London

“Marcia Hall has written a wide-ranging, ambitious book that is the fruit of long reflection on the significance of color in early modern and modern Western painting.”—Stuart Lingo, University of Washington

Marcia B. Hall is professor of art history at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University.