More Than Just A Pig­ment - Prus­sian Blue

Distinguished Magazine - - CONTENTS - NAMRATA GU­LATI SAPRA

Prus­sian Blue was dis­cov­ered ac­ci­den­tally and not con­sciously. Lit­tle did the chemist know that his dis­cov­ery was go­ing to al­ter the course of his­tory of art!

The pig­ment of Prus­sian Blue de­serves much more credit than it usu­ally gets in the world of art. For the artists, it proved to be noth­ing less than a god­send, for it helped them cre­ate in­deli­ble works of art. That apart, the pig­ment found a prom­i­nent place on the world map in no time.

The story of Prus­sian Blue is piqued in his­tory. In the year 1704, a Ber­lin Chemist by the name of Hein­rich Dies­bach mixed some chem­i­cals to­gether and voila! An all-new pig­ment was born. Thus, Prus­sian Blue was dis­cov­ered ac­ci­den­tally and not con­sciously. Lit­tle did the chemist know that his dis­cov­ery was go­ing to al­ter the course of the his­tory of art! The world seemed to be ob­sessed with the hue! It quickly be­came Wordsworth’s fa­vorite color, while lit­er­ary ge­niuses like Baude­laire show­ered praises upon it in their writ­ings.

By now, Europe was ob­sessed with the glo­ri­ous color that seemed to have im­mense po­ten­tial. Prus­sian blue, es­pe­cially res­onated with none other than Van Gogh, who went on to pro­duce works of art that are cel­e­brated the world over and in­spired awe of the on­look­ers. The color dom­i­nates his bril­liant brush strokes in ‘The Starry Night’ in par­tic­u­lar. Prus­sian Blue struck an im­me­di­ate chord with the fa­ther of art, Pi­casso too, in­spir­ing him to cre­ate art that cen­tered on the shade. This ob­ses­sion of Pi­casso’s with the shade came to be known as the ‘Blue Pe­riod’. Prus­sian Blue also made its pres­ence felt in France. The deep blue cre­ated an im­pact on Ro­coco art, a move­ment quite pop­u­lar in the coun­try. The art form de­picted scenes from mythol­ogy, na­ture and love. An­toine Wat­teau was among the first artists who made use of it in his paint­ings, such as ‘Pil­grim­age to Cythera’. Other artists in the land fol­lowed suit. These in­cluded Jean-Bap­tiste Pater and Ni­co­las Lan­cret.

The wide­spread use of Prus­sian Blue by Eu­ro­pean artists, had in­spired Ja­panese artist Hoku­sai to em­ploy the pig­ment in his own art. He im­mor­tal­ized his imag­i­na­tion in the form of art works such as the series known as ‘Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji’ and ‘The Great Wave off Kana­gawa’. These bril­liant pieces of art re­lied heav­ily on the Eu­ro­pean im­port and helped shape Mod­ernism in the sphere. The hue of blue lent exquisite­ness to the land­scapes that the artist painted ex­ten­sively on his can­vas. Hoku­sai’s im­prints were bought by Van Gogh him­self!

Though a plain look­ing pig­ment, Prus­sian Blue rev­o­lu­tion­ized art al­most through­out the world like never be­fore by giv­ing birth to, or re­defin­ing var­i­ous move­ments as­so­ci­ated with it.

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