An Atlas of Rare & Familiar Colour

An Atlas of Rare and Familiar Colour – the Havard Collection

An Atlas of Rare and Familiar Colour presents the Havard Art Museums’ Forbes Pigment Collection.

I found this fascinating and the layout very attractive and unusual. The foreword by Victoria Finlay was easy to read and interesting. It set the scene and made me want to read on.

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Then we have a much more detailed foreword by Narayan Khandekar – so full of facts that I did wish the paragraphs were a little shorter so that I could absorb the information as a more leisurely pace. A lot more “white space” would have made it easier to read, but, again, full of interest even to the non-specialist reader like myself. Kingston Trinder is the third of the three distinguished authors.

Then we come to the body of the book. What a great idea to colour the text pages which preceded the numerous pages of test tubes and bottles filled with the relevant colour. Mostly this was very successful and added interest, although writing white on yellow does look attractive, it made it even harder to read. It did seem a shame to squash so many fascinating descriptions and stories without segmenting it a bit more – sure, the book would have been longer and more expensive – but it is a beautiful book anyway, a joy to examine.

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The book contains an excellent glossary, for those of us who are fairly ignorant about art, and an index. But there were two things missing!

I desperately wanted a timeline to summarise when all the different colours appeared. If I was studying this, it would be the first thing I would have to try to compile.

The other thing missing is an accompanying volume with all the paintings written about illustrated here – in colour! Fortunately, I have a good stock of art books with photos – but I seemed to need a great many of them to really understand what they were writing about.

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To summarise, this is a lovely book to handle, a bit difficult to read unless you are already something of an expert in the field, which I am not. My daughter who knows far more about the subject that I do can’t wait to get her hands on it.

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Written by Liz H

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