Review: The Brilliant History of Color in Art

Book: The Brilliant History of Color in Art by Victoria Finlay
Publisher: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Source + Date Read
: Purchased + January 2015
Recommend: For a light NF read.
Book Pro’s: Easy to understand.
Book Con’s: I didn’t like the physical format.

Summary: The history of art is inseparable from the history of color. And what a fascinating story they tell together: one that brims with an all-star cast of characters, eye-opening details, and unexpected detours through the annals of human civilization and scientific discovery. Enter critically acclaimed writer and popular journalist Victoria Finlay, who here takes readers across the globe and over the centuries on an unforgettable tour through the brilliant history of color in art. Written for newcomers to the subject and aspiring young artists alike, Finlay’s quest to uncover the origins and science of color will beguile readers of all ages with its warm and conversational style. Her rich narrative is illustrated in full color throughout with 166 major works of art—most from the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum.
More Information: GoodReads

I’ve read a previous work by Finlay (which I’ll do a review of later) and I was excited to see her return with another book based on color. For this review I’ll talk about what I liked at first then continue with the bits I didn’t so much enjoy.

Content wise, it’s pretty darn good. The Brilliant History isn’t the type of stodgy nonfiction that is hard to read and digest. It’s written in a widely accessible tone that readers of most ages will find enjoyable. It isn’t a condescending tone, you don’t get the impression that she’s talking down to you so much as she’s a teacher, trying to tease you along a journey. What I particularly enjoyed is the book’s strict focus, it only discusses the use of color as it applies to art and as a microhistory book, it is successful because the author doesn’t get confused or for the sake of knowledge, does huge awkward info dumps. Plus, as an amateur academic (and I seriously do say amateur) I think her research is found. It isn’t as deep as it could have been but for this book, that works. If she’d have gone deeper it would be thicker and much harder to read.

Now, what I didn’t like. I despise the book’s format, I really, really do. When I purchased it I thought it was a regular hardback edition. What I found is that it’s square in nature and resembles a coffee table book. Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t enjoy that style of book. It doesn’t make for a comfortable or engrossing read, physically, as at most it’s a lap book. I didn’t like holding it and reading it was cumbersome. I also, and this is just my being immensely picky, I didn’t like the physical format of the pages. Every page exploded with bright-colored prints and the text were sandwiched on the sides most of the time so it resembled a very bright and dizzy newspaper. I recognize what for me knocked it down a heart will actually be a plus to another, but I wish they’d printed it in a standard hardback or paperback. Sigh, here’s to wishing.

Either way, the actual book is great, I just didn’t enjoy the format.



About Claire (BWB)

It's Claire (aka Quirky) from Bitches With Books, an online book blog that serves up a healthy dose of book reviews, lists + literary madness.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, NonFiction and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Review: The Brilliant History of Color in Art

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