Price Check! Here’s What Sold—And For How Much—at Art Basel in Miami Beach 2018
Here’s what art dealers say they sold at the fair (though watch out for number-fudging and other kinds of general sneakiness).Caroline Goldstein, December 10, 2018. This year’s Miami Art Week launched during a rocky moment in the stock market and amid ongoing fears of a trade war between the US and China. But art fairs have a tendency to feel as if they are operating in an alternate universe, far removed from real life. Inside the newly renovated Miami Beach Convention Center, Jennifer Lopez and Leonardo DiCaprio rubbed shoulders with Blackstone Chairman J. Tomilson Hill and Guggenheim Museum director Richard Armstrong at the week’s flagship fair. At the end of the day, however, the deals that galleries broker this week have a very real impact on their bottom lines—and can often be the difference between a good year and a bad one. Sales appeared to come in fast and furious during the VIP preview on Wednesday (particularly for brand-name galleries offering brand-name works). By the end of the week, a considerable number of the biggest-ticket items—including a $50 million Rothko—appeared to be left unsold, while some smaller dealers outside the fair’s main section experienced less frothy action than their blue-chip peers. What follows is a rundown of the fair’s reported sales this year, ranging from paintings that reached the auction-worthy nosebleed terrain of seven figures all the way down to artworks that left the fair for the price of a luxury handbag. As usual, sales reports are slippery—some purchases may have been finalized long before the fair, while others might only be hypothetical, still awaiting the all-important paperwork (and cash). Prices, however, are far more reliably telling, giving a valuable snapshot of where individual artists stand in the art-market matrix today. Notably, some dealers prefer to report ranges or the “asking price,” to obscure the actual price and, for instance, cover up any favorable treatment that another buyer of a comparable work may not have received. Here is a (partial) roundup of notable sales at the fair—take it all with a pinch of salt—as compiled by artnet News, sorted by medium and price. Any sums reported in GBP or euros were converted to US dollars for consistency and ease of reading.
PAINTINGS, Courtesy of Art Basel
$17 million: Pablo Picasso’s Tete de Femme (1917) at Van de Weghe Fine Art
$7.5 million: Philip Guston‘s Shoe Head (1976) at Hauser & Wirth; the painting has not been publicly exhibited since it was first presented in 1976
$5 million: Mark Bradford‘s Feather (2018) at Hauser & Wirth, now promised to a US-based institution
$3.6 million: Marc Chagall‘s Deux ânes verts (1980) at Hammer Galleries
$3.6 million: Lee Krasner‘s Bird Image (1963) at Kasmin Gallery
$2.75 million: Philip Guston’s painting Untitled (1969) at Hauser & Wirth sold to a European collection
$2.5 million: Mark Bradford’s Amendment #6 at Mnuchin Gallery
$2.4 million: Marc Chagall’s Peintre au coq rouge (1959–68) at Hammer Galleries
$2 million: Larry Bell’s painting My Montauk (1960) at Hauser & Wirth
$1.4–1.5 million: Jesús Rafael Soto‘s Mural Cinético, 1983 at Sicardi Ayers Bacino Gallery
$1.1 million: George Condo‘s Listening and Talking (2018) at Skarstedt Gallery
$1.08 million: Georg Baselitz‘s Ist das der Weg? at Thaddaeus Ropac
$850,000: Al Held‘s Phoenicia IV (1969) at White Cube
$750,000: Bridget Riley, Light Shade 7 (2018)
$750,000: Sean Scully‘s STACK GREYS (2018) at Cheim & Read
$750,000: Francis Picabia‘s Transparence (Deux tetes) (1935) at Hammer Galleries
$750,000: Al Held’s B/W XIV (1968) at Cheim & Read
$700,000–800,000 each: Carlos Cruz-Diez, Physichromie Panam 309 at Sicardi Ayers Bacino, as well as commissions for two works from the same series.
$600,000 each: Three paintings on aluminum by Carmen Herrera from Lisson Gallery
Approximately $500,000: Franz Kline‘s Untitled (ca. 1957–8) at Richard Gray Gallery
Approximately $500,000: Alex Katz‘s painting Red Hat (Nicole) (2013) at Richard Gray Gallery
$500,000: Wifredo Lam‘s Personnage (1968/70) at Galerie Gmurzynska
$500,000: Robert Motherwell, Mexican Collage at Miles McEnery Gallery, NY
$450,000: Jonas Wood‘s Blackwelder Speaker Still Life (2018) at David Kordansky
$380,000: Oscar Murillo‘s Manifestation (2018) at David Zwirner
$350,000: Mary Corse’s Blue Black White, Beveled (2010) at Kayne Griffin Corcoran
$325,000: A painting by Henry Taylor at Blum & Poe
$325,000: A painting by Robert Colescott at Blum & Poe
$300,000: Lee Ufan’s Dialogue (2018) at Lisson
$300,000: Jonathan Lasker’s The Price of Being (1993) at Cheim & Read
$300,000: William N. Copley’s Why Are You Staring (1986) at Kasmin Gallery
$250,000–300,000: Markus Lüpertz‘s Eurydike (2017) at Almine Rech
$250,000: Ed Clark’s Untitled painting at Mnuchin Gallery
$250,000: Charles Gaines’s Numbers and Trees: Palm Tree 1, Tree #4 Zori (2018) at Hauser & Wirth
$230,000: Virginia Jaramillo’s Epsilon-Endi (1978) at Hales Gallery
Installation view of works by Mary Weatherford at David Kordansky Gallery
$225,000 each: Mary Weatherford’s Ice House Canyon, three lights and Ice House Canyon, four lights (both 2018) at David Kordansky
$225,000: Wifredo Lam’s Chant dans la forêt (1968) at Hammer Galleries
$210,000: Daniel Richter‘s Dean at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
$200,000–250,000: Ha Chong-Hyun’s Conjunction 17-20 at Kukje Gallery/Tina Kim Gallery
$200,000: Alberto Burri‘s Combustione (1964) at Galerie Gmurzynska
$200,000: Jennifer Guidi’s Offerings to the Sun (Painted Sand SF #1F, Pink, Yellow, Orange Gradient, White) (2018) at David Kordansky
$180,000: Mary Corse’s Untitled (Electric Light) (1968/2018) at Pace Gallery
$180,000: Ron Gorchov’s XUTHUS (2018) at Cheim & Read
$180,000: Jennifer Bartlett’s House: Yellow Roof Left (1998) at Marianne Boesky Gallery
$165,000: Stanley Whitney’s Dream Walking (2018) at Lisson Gallery
$175,000: Amy Sherald’s When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be (Self-imagined atlas) at Hauser & Wirth, sold to an American museum
$165,000 each: Three paintings by Sue Williams—Fluorescent and Flooby (2003); Bindweed and Red (2005); and Golfing at Northwoods (all 2008)—at 303 Gallery
$165,000: Stanley Whitney’s Dream Walking at Lisson Gallery
$165,000: Mary Heilmann’s January Night-Stinson Beach (2002) at 303 Gallery
$150,000: A painting by Harold Ancart at David Zwirner Gallery
$136,000: An abstract work by Karel Appel at Blum & Poe
$130,000–170,000: McArthur Binion’s DNA: Study (2018) at Lehmann Maupin
$120,000–170,000: Hernan Bas‘s painting A Boy in Peril (2013) at Lehmann Maupin
$110,000–120,000: Hernan Bas’s Flooded forest (2008) at Lehmann Maupin
$100,000: Sam Falls’s Untitled (Sea Ranch) (2018) at 303 Gallery
$90,000–175,000 each: Three works by Donald Moffat at Marianne Boesky Gallery
$80,000 each: Two works from Young-Il Ahn’s “Water” series at Kavi Gupta
$75,000: Julio Le Parc‘s Alchimie 410 (2018) at Galeria Nara Roesler
$72,000: Nina Chanel Abney’s Q&A (2018) at Jack Shainman Gallery
$70,000: A painting by Firelei Báez at Kavi Gupta
$60,000–80,000: A painting by Vivian Springford at Almine Rech Gallery
$60,000–80,000: Angel Otero’s Gap of Time (2018) at Lehmann Maupin
$62,000: Leslie Wayne’s Instructions for Dancing at Jack Shainman
$60,000: A large Shinique Smith painting at David Castillo Gallery
$60,000: Lesley Vance’s Untitled (2018) at David Kordanksy
$58,000: Tala Madani’s Shadow Projection (Animal Hands) 1 (2018) at 303 Gallery
$58,000: Ivan Morley’s A True Tale (2018) at David Kordansky
$50,000–70,000: OSGEMEOS’s Untitled spray-painted work at Lehmann Maupin
$45,000 each: Two works by Jacob Kassay at 303 Gallery
$35,000–40,000 each: Six paintings by Haroshi at Nanzuka Gallery
$30,000–100,000 each: Five paintings by Feliciano Centurión in the Survey section, at Walden Gallery
$30,000–50,000: Claire Tabouret’s Together at Almine Rech
$30,000–50,000: Farah Atassi’s Woman in Sailor Top (2018) at Almine Rech Gallery
$30,000: A painting by Sanford Biggers at David Castillo Gallery
$28,000–72,000 each: Six paintings by Maryan in the solo-booth at Venus Over Manhattan in the Survey section.
$28,000 each: Two paintings by Pepe Mar at David Castillo Gallery
$20,000–30,000: Michael Hilsman’s Lemon Tree with Timepieces (2018) at Almine Rech
$25,000: A work by Vaughn Spann at David Castillo Gallery
$25,000: Markus Amm’s smoky magenta painting, Untitled (2018), at David Kordansky Gallery
$18,000: Armin Boehm, Susanne (2018) at Meyer Riegger Galerie
$14,000 each: Two satirical paintings of world leaders by Vincent Namatjira at This Is No Fantasy Gallery
$2 million: Louise Bourgeois‘s Femme (2004) at Hauser & Wirth
$1.35 million: El Anatsui‘s Almost at Mnuchin Gallery
$350,000: Beverly Pepper’s Black and White, Venice (1968) at Kayne Griffin Corcoran
$250,000: Lynda Benglis’s NAR 1980 at Cheim & Read
$245,000: Rashid Johnson’s mixed media Untitled Escape Collage (2018) at Hauser & Wirth
$235,000: Rashid Johnson’s Untitled Microphone Sculpture (2018) at David Kordansky Gallery
$150,000–200,000: Liza Lou’s beaded cirrus filiformis (2018) at Lehmann Maupin
$140,000–160,000: Nari Ward’s Molt’s Liquor Soul (2018) at Lehmann Maupin
$110,000: Peter Alexander’s I Remember When it was All Orange Groves (2017) at Pace
$108,400: Anselm Reyle’s untitled mixed media and acrylic glass work (2018) at König Galerie
$105,000: Yoan Capote’s Isla (Causa y Efecto II) (2018) at Jack Shainman
$103,000: A tapestry by Goshka Macuga visible through 3D glasses at Andrew Kreps
$100,000–150,000: Nicholas Hlobo’s Ingcambu yemvelo (2018) at Lehmann Maupin
$75,000–100,000: Dorothea Rockburne’s OD. #1 Bykert (1970), which includes paper, crude oil, and nails, at Van Doren Waxter
$75,000: Cecilia Vicuña’s Pongo la Mano al Fuega para ti (1969/72) at Lehmann Maupin
$66,000: Betty Woodman‘s Table and Rug (2016) at David Kordansky
$60,000–70,000: Nicholas Hlobo’s Umkhono (2017) at Lehmann Maupin
$60,000: Rodney Graham’s lightbox work, Unused Prop: French Telephone (2018) at 303 Gallery
$50,000: Devan Shimoyama’s Nightshade Harvest (2018) at Kavi Gupta
$30,000–40,000: Mika Tajima’s Negative Entropy (TAE, Electric Arc Pulse Power, Full Width Quad) (2018) at Kayne Griffin Corcoran
$25,000–60,000 each: Eight works by Derek Fordjour at Josh Lilley Gallery
$20,000–45,000 each: Four hand-embroidered silk collages, all from 2018, by Billie Zangewa at blank projects
$12,000 each: Two paintings of women made from paper pulp by Natalie Frank (both 2018) at Rhona Hoffman Gallery, sold to 21c Museum Hotels
$1,500–3,000 each: 20 embroidery works by Chiachio & Giannone from Ruth Benzacar Galería de Arte
$1.6 million: Anish Kapoor‘s Untitled mirrored installation at Galleria Continua
$1.2 million: Paul McCarthy‘s White Snow Cake (2017–18) at Hauser & Wirth
$1 million: Shell Game (2014) by Martin Puryear, who will represent the US at the 2019 Venice Biennale, sold at Matthew Marks Gallery
$650,000: Alexander Calder‘s Pierrot vollant (1976) at Hammer Galleries
$595,000: Robert Indiana‘s LOVE (1966/96) at Kasmin Gallery
$550,000: Larry Bell’s glass sculpture Untitled (1967) at Hauser & Wirth
$500,000: John Baldessari‘s Scissors (2015) at Mai 36 Galerie, Zurich
$470,000 each: Three editions of Sarah Lucas‘s Jubilee (2017) at Sadie Coles HQ
$400,000: Rebecca Warren’s Fascia IV 2011 at Skarstedt Gallery
$400,000: Jaume Plensa‘s Maria’s World (2018) at Richard Gray Gallery
$250,000: Larry Bell’s Untitled (1970) at Pace Gallery
$250,000: David Smith’s Menand III (1963) at Miles McEnery Gallery
$239,000: Jeppe Hein’s Parallel Sine Curve (2018) at König Galerie, Berlin
$230,000: Ugo Rondinone‘s green pink blue yellow mountain (2018) at Sadie Coles HQ
$200,000: Jack Pierson‘s POSITIVE VIBES (2018) at Cheim & Read
$185,000: Aaron Curry’s Multidimensional Dude Complex (2018) at David Kordansky Gallery
$150,000–200,000: Aaron Curry’s Cosmic Bather (2017) at Almine Rech Gallery
$150,000: Huma Bhabha’s GM (2018) at David Kordansky Gallery
$150,000: James Turrell‘s Untitled (XXXII G) October 2014 at Pace
$125,000: Evan Holloway’s Shoots of an Inverted Tree (2018) at David Kordansky
$125,000: Peter Alexander’s Time Flies By (2018) at Pace
$120,000–160,000: Kader Attia’s Untitled (2018) incorporating broxen mirrors, ebony powder, and an antique Songhye mask at Lehmann Maupin
$120,000–160,000: Tracy Emin’s I can feel your smile (2005) neon sculpture at Lehmann Maupin
$110,000: Sheila Hicks‘s Pockets 1982 at Alison Jacques Gallery, sold to a European museum
$100,000 each: Two 2018 maquettes by Larry Bell at Hauser & Wirth
$86,000: Alicja Kwade’s Formation (2018) at 303 Gallery
$65,000: Isabel De Obaldia’s Metate of the Golden Jaguar at Mary-Anne Martin Fine Art
$55,000: Shahryar Nashat’s Mother on Wheels (Oro Grigio) (2018) at David Kordansky
$58,000: Ricky Swallow’s Hanging Bow with Pegs #2 (2018) at David Kordansky
$50,000: Analia Saban’s Woven Grid as Warp and Weft at Sprüth Magers
$50,000: Mai-Thu Perret’s ceramic headless figurines, Niki (Group of 4) (2015) at David Kordansky
$45,000: Ruby Neri’s Sun Disk ceramic (2018) at David Kordansky
$45,000: Gehard Demetz’s sculpture 21 Grams at Jack Shainman
$45,000: Radcliffe Bailey’s mixed media installation Black Flight (2018) at Jack Shainman
$40,000: Lauren Halsey’s that fuss wuz us (2018) at David Kordansky
$32,000: Brad Kahlhamer’s Survival Chandelier 1 (2018) at Jack Shainman
$28,000: Valentin Carron’s Low low, Lorraine aimless (2013) at David Kordansky
$15,000–60,000 each: Ceramic works by the Haas brothers, who are currently showing at the Bass Museum, sold at Marianne Boesky Gallery
WORKS ON PAPER, FILM, PRINTS, PHOTOGRAPHS
$750,000: Robert Longo, Untitled (First Amendment) 2018 at Metro Pictures, NY
$600,000: Robert Longo’s charcoal on paper Untitled (Snow Trees) (2018) at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
$575,000: Mark Grotjahn’s Untitled (Cream Butterfly) 514 (2004) sold at Hauser & Wirth
$500,000: Robert Mapplethorpe‘s Hands (1981) at Mai 36 Galerie, Zurich
$350,000: David Hockney‘s Inside It Opens Up As Well (2017) at Richard Gray Gallery
$350,000: Louise Bourgeois’s UNTITLED (2004) at Cheim & Read sold to a European museum
$240,000–260,000: Teresita Fernandez’s charcoal-based work Untitled (Specter) (2018) at Lehmann Maupin
$200,000: Adrian Piper’s Race Traitor (2018) at Levy Gorvy
$155,000–225,000: A photograph by Theaster Gates at White Cube
$160,000: Man Ray‘s gelatin silver print La Prière (1930) at Edwynn Houk Gallery
$150,000: Louise Bourgeois’s SPIRAL at Cheim & Read
$150,000: Walid Raad’s Appendix 137 at Sfeir-Semler Gallery
$100,000: Louise Bourgeois’s Spider work on paper (2003) at Hauser & Wirth
$95,000: Kara Walker‘s graphite and pastel on paper White Space (2010) to a private US institution at Sprüth Magers
$85,000: Painting on paper by Richard Pousette-Dart at Miles McEnery Gallery
$65,000 each: All 100 editions of KAWS‘s triptych Last Time, Alone Again & Far Far Dawn at Pace Prints; the works were so in demand that the gallery had to offer them via lottery
$55,000: Hank Willis Thomas’s screenprint The St. Augustine Movement (En Masse) at Jack Shainman Gallery
$50,000: Robert Mapplethorpe’s Cock and Gun (1982) at Alison Jacques Gallery
$48,000 each: Two works from Matthew Brannon’s Concerning Vietnam series at David Kordansky Gallery
$32,000 each: Watercolor on paper works by Camille Henrot at Metro Pictures, NY
$30,000: The first edition of Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña’s 75-minute stop-motion feature film La Casa Lobo (2018) at Upstream Gallery
$28,000: Torbjørn Rødland‘s Look What You Did! (2017) at David Kordansky
$19,000: Nancy Burson’s diptych of vintage gelatin silver prints, Method and Apparatus for Producing an Image of a Person’s Face at a Different Age (1976) at Paci contemporary, sold to a foundation in Chicago
$18,000: Kind of Blue #3 (2018) by Paul Anthony Smith, the newest addition to Jack Shainman’s roster
$18,000: Polly Apfelbaum’s The Planet Drawings (2018) at Galerie nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder to a US collector
$6,800: Gareth Nyandoro’s Huku Pano (2018) at Van Doren Waxter
$5,000–13,000 each: 24 prints by Zanele Muholi at Stevenson Gallery’s Kabinett booth.
$4,000–10,000 each: Ten works by Willa Nasatir at Chapter NY
5 most valuable Canadian artworks ever sold at auction
Jessica Wong · CBC News · Posted: Nov 23, 2016 11:19 AM ET | Last Updated: June 19, 2017
‘Mountain Forms’, an iconic 1926 Rocky Mountain canvas by Group of Seven founder Lawren Harris, was sold by Heffel Fine Art Auction House in Toronto in Nov. 2016, not long after being part of The Idea of North, Steve Martin’s show celebrating the art of Harris. (Heffel Fine Art Auction House. The commanding large-scale canvas Mountain Forms by iconic artist and Group of Seven founder Lawren Harris — a mountain scene from his coveted 1920s creative period — sold for a record $9.5 million at the Heffel Fine Art Auction House in Toronto in Nov. 2016.
With a conservative presale estimate of $3 million to $5 million, the painting ultimately sold for much more, making it the most expensive Canadian artwork ever sold at auction, knocking off longtime record-holder Paul Kane’s Scene in the Northwest. Including the buyer’s sales premium, the painting sold for $11.21 million.
Here are the top five most valuable Canadian artworks ever sold at auction.
1. Lawren Harris, ‘Mountain Forms’
Sold in 2016 for $11,210,000 (all prices including sales premium)
2. Jean Paul Riopelle, ‘Vent du nord’
Sold in 2017 for $7,438,750
Paul Riopelle’s abstract work Vent du nord headed into Heffel’s spring 2017 auction with a conservative pre-sale estimate of $1 million to $1.5 million. (Heffel Auction/The Canadian Press)
3. Paul Kane, ‘Scene in the Northwest – Portrait of John Henry Lefroy’
Sold in 2002 for $5,062,000
Art lover and media baron Ken Thomson bought Scene in the Northwest at a Sotheby’s Canada sale in 2002, eventually donating it to the Art Gallery of Ontario. (Courtesy: The Thomson Collection/Art Gallery of Ontario)
4. Lawren Harris, ‘Mountain and Glacier’,
Sold in 2015 for $4,602,000
Heffel set a new record for a Harris work with Mountain and Glacier that was sold at an auction in Nov. 2015. (Heffel Fine Art Auction House)
5. Jeff Wall, ‘Dead Troops Talk (A Vision After an Ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, Winter 1986’)
Sold in 2012 for $3,666,400
Jeff Wall’s colossal photograph Dead Troops Talk was a record-setter at Christie’s in New York in 2012: highest price ever paid at auction for a Canadian photograph. (Christie’s)
The color blue is associated with two of Earth’s greatest natural features: the sky and the ocean. But that wasn’t always the case. Some scientists believe that the earliest humans were actually colorblind and could only recognize black, white, red, and only later yellow and green. As a result, early humans with no concept of the color blue simply had no words to describe it. This is even reflected in ancient literature, such as Homer’s Odyssey, that describes the ocean as a “wine-red sea.”
Blue was first produced by the ancient Egyptians who figured out how to create a permanent pigment that they used for decorative arts. The color blue continued to evolve for the next 6,000 years, and certain pigments were even used by the world’s master artists to create some of the most famous works of art. Today it continues to evolve, with the latest shade discovered less than a decade ago. Read on to learn more about the color’s fascinating history.
1. Egyptian Blue
Egyptian Juglet, ca. 1750–1640 B.C. (Photo: Met Museum, Rogers Fund and Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1922.)
There’s a long list of things we can thank the ancient Egyptians for inventing, and one of them is the color blue. Considered to be the first ever synthetically produced color pigment, Egyptian blue (also known as cuprorivaite) was created around 2,200 B.C. It was made from ground limestone mixed with sand and a copper-containing mineral, such as azurite or malachite, which was then heated between 1470 and 1650°F. The result was an opaque blue glass which then had to be crushed and combined with thickening agents such as egg whites to create a long-lasting paint or glaze.
The Egyptians held the hue in very high regard and used it to paint ceramics, statues, and even to decorate the tombs of the pharaohs. The color remained popular throughout the Roman Empire and was used until the end of the Greco-Roman period (332 BC–395 AD), when new methods of color production started to evolve.
The figure of a Lion. ca. 1981–1640 B.C. (Photo: Met Museum, Rogers Fund and Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1922.)
Fun fact: In 2006, scientists discovered that Egyptian blue glows under fluorescent lights, indicating that the pigment emits infrared radiation. This discovery has made it a lot easier for historians to identify the color on ancient artifacts, even when it’s not visible to the naked eye.
2. Ultramarine Blue
“Virgin and Child with Female Saints” by Gérard David, 1500. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The history of ultramarine began around 6,000 years ago when the vibrant, semi-precious gemstone it was made from—lapis lazuli—began to be imported by the Egyptians from the mountains of Afghanistan. However, the Egyptians tried and failed to turn it into a paint, with each attempt resulting in a dull gray. Instead, they used it to make jewelry and headdresses.
Also known as “true blue,” lapis lazuli first appeared as a pigment in the 6th century and was used in Buddhist paintings in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. It was renamed ultramarine—in Latin: ultramarinus, meaning “beyond the sea”—when the pigment was imported into Europe by Italian traders during the 14th and 15th centuries. Its deep, royal blue quality meant that was highly sought after among artists living in Medieval Europe. However, in order to use it you had to be wealthy, as it was considered to be just as precious as gold.
“Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer, circa 1665. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Ultramarine was usually reserved for only the most important commissions, such as the blue robes of the Virgin Mary in Gérard David’s Virgin and Child with Female Saints. Supposedly, Baroque master Johannes Vermeer—who painted Girl with a Pearl Earring—loved the color so much that he pushed his family into debt. It remained extremely expensive until a synthetic ultramarine was invented in 1826, by a French chemist, which was then aptly named “French Ultramarine.”
Fun fact: Art historians believe that Michelangelo left his painting The Entombment (1500–01) unfinished because he could not afford to buy more ultramarine blue.
3. Cobalt Blue
“The Skiff (La Yole)” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1875. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Cobalt blue dates back to the 8th and 9th centuries, and was then used to color ceramics and jewelry. This was especially the case in China, where it was used in distinctive blue and white patterned porcelain. A purer alumina-based version was later discovered by French chemist Louis Jacques Thénard in 1802, and commercial production began in France in 1807. Painters—such as J. M. W. Turner, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Vincent Van Gogh—started using the new pigment as an alternative to expensive ultramarine.
“Dinky Bird” by Maxfield Parrish, 1904. (Via Wikimedia Commons)
Fun fact: Cobalt blue is sometimes called Parrish blue because artist Maxfield Parrish used it to create his distinct, intensely blue skyscapes.
4. Cerulean Blue
“Summer’s Day” by Berthe Morisot, 1879. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Originally composed of cobalt magnesium stannate, the sky-colored cerulean blue was perfected by Andreas Höpfner in Germany in 1805 by roasting cobalt and tin oxides. However, the color was not available as an artistic pigment until 1860 when it was sold by Rowney and Company under the name of coeruleum. Artist Berthe Morisot used cerulean along with ultramarine and cobalt blue to paint the blue coat of the woman in A Summer’s Day, 1887.
Fun fact: In 1999, Pantone released a press release declaring cerulean as the “Color of the Millennium,” and “the hue of the future.”
5. Indigo Blue
Indigo, historical dye collection of the Technical University of Dresden, Germany. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons )
Although blue was expensive to use in paintings, it was much cheaper to use for dying textiles. Unlike the rarity of lapis lazuli, the arrival of a new blue dye called “indigo” came from an excessively grown crop—called Indigofera tinctoria—that was produced across the world. Its import shook up the European textile trade in the 16th century, and catalyzed trade wars between Europe and America.
Indigo dyed textile (England), 1790s. (Photo: Matt Flynn via Wikimedia Commons)
The use of indigo for dyeing textiles was most popular in England, and was used to dye clothing worn by men and women of all social backgrounds. Natural indigo was replaced in 1880, when synthetic indigo was developed. This pigment is still used today to dye blue jeans. However, over the last decade scientists have discovered that the bacteria Escherichia coli can be bio-engineered to produce the same chemical reaction that makes indigo in plants. This method, called “bio-indigo,” will likely play a big part in manufacturing environmentally friendly denim in the future.
Fun fact: Sir Isaac Newton—the inventor of the “color spectrum”—believed that the rainbow should consist of seven distinct colors to match the seven days of the week, the seven known planets, and the seven notes in the musical scale. Newton championed indigo, along with orange, even though many other contemporary scientists believed the rainbow only had five colors.
6. Navy Blue
Navy cadets in uniform, 1877. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Formally known as marine blue, the darkest shade of blue—also known as navy blue—was adopted as the official color for British Royal Navy uniforms, and was worn by officers and sailors from 1748. Modern navies have since darkened the color of their uniforms to almost black in an attempt to avoid fading. Indigo dye was the basis for historical navy blue colors dating from the 18th century.
Fun fact: There are many variations of navy blue, including Space cadet, a color that was formulated in 2007. This hue is associated with the uniforms of cadets in the space navy; a fictional military service armed with the task of exploring outer space.
7. Prussian Blue
“The Great Wave off Kanagawa” by Katsushika Hokusai, 1831. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Also known as Berliner Blau, Prussian blue was discovered accidentally by German dye-maker Johann Jacob Diesbach. In fact, Diesbach was working on creating a new red, however, one of his materials—potash—had come into contact with animal blood. Instead of making the pigment even more red like you might expect, the animal blood created a surprising chemical reaction, resulting in a vibrant blue.
Prussian Blue Pigment. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Pablo Picasso used the Prussian blue pigment exclusively during his Blue Period, and Japanese woodblock artist Katsushika Hokusai used it to create his iconic The Great Wave off Kanagawa, as well as other prints in his Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series. However, the pigment wasn’t only used for creating masterpieces. In 1842, English astronomer Sir John Herschel discovered that Prussian blue had a unique sensitivity to light, and was the perfect hue to create copies of drawings. This discovery proved invaluable to the likes of architects, who could create copies of their plans and designs, that are today known as “blueprints.”
Fun fact: Today, Prussian blue is used in a pill form to cure metal poisoning.
In pursuit of the color of the sky, French artist Yves Klein developed a matte version of ultramarine that he considered the best blue of all. He registered International Klein Blue (IKB) as a trademark and the deep hue became his signature between 1947 and 1957. He painted over 200 monochrome canvases, sculptures, and even painted human models in the IKB color so they could “print” their bodies onto canvas.
Fun fact: Klein once said “blue has no dimensions. It is beyond dimensions,” believing that it could take the viewer outside the canvas itself.
9. The Latest Discovery: YInMn
YInMn Blue. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
In 2009, a new shade of blue was accidentally discovered by Professor Mas Subramanian and his then graduate student Andrew E. Smith at Oregon State University. While exploring new materials for making electronics, Smith discovered that one of his samples turned bright blue when heated. Named YInMn blue, after its chemical makeup of yttrium, indium, and manganese, they released the pigment for commercial use in June 2016.
Fun fact: YInMn blue was recently added to the Crayola crayon collection.
Many people have asked me about my interest in abstracted landscapes, many of which are based on abstractions of the vibrant colours and geometric shapes derived from their respective photo references. I have discovered that by digitally manipulating these photos, I can generate new and more interestingly surreal reference subjects. For me, the resulting tension between these varied expressions of created order evoke humankind’s tendency to impose his will and control over nature to create a transformed reality. The results can display goodness, truth and beauty or profoundly distort and debase creation in the service of the opposite. I think this is worth painting about!
“I was working on a big totem with heavy woods behind. How badly I want that nameless thing! First there must be an idea, a feeling, or whatever you want to call it, the something that interested or inspired you sufficiently to make you desire to express it…Then you must discover the pervading direction, the pervading rhythm, the dominant, recurring forms, the dominant colour, but always the thing must be top in your thoughts. Everything must lead up to it, clothe it, feed it, balance it, tenderly fold it, till it reveals itself in all the beauty of its ideas.”
St. John the Baptist was painted by Leonardo da Vinci during 1513 to 1516, when the High Renaissance was metamorphosing into Mannerism, it is believed to be his last painting. This is an oil painting on walnut wood. The original size of the work was 69×57 cm. It is now exhibited at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, France.
The pointing gesture of St. John toward the heavens suggests the importance of salvation through baptism that John the Baptist represents. The work is often quoted by later painters, especially those in the late Renaissance and Mannerist schools. The inclusion of a gesture similar to John’s would increase the importance of a work with a religious conceit.
Many people are critical of this work, finding it a disturbing representation of a character normally portrayed as gaunt and fiery, living in a desert and surviving on a diet of locusts and honey. In Leonardo’s painting St. John seems almost to be a hermaphrodite. He has a womanish arm bent across his breast, his finger raised towards heaven, and that same enigmatic smile so admired on the face of Mona Lisa, a smile which can be seen in other Leonardo paintings like that of St. Anne. His face is almost faun-like and framed by a glorious cascade of curls. The finger pointed towards heaven was to appear quite often in Leonardo’s work (the Burlington House cartoon is another example) and denotes the coming of Christ.
Leonardo was aware of the inherent dangers of this system. Earlier in his notes he warned that a figure will not be discerned against a dark background and will not appear to be detached from it. From a distance nothing will be visible but the illuminated parts. However, in the shadows of the body of St John the Baptist, Leonardo has retained just enough light for us to be able to comprehend his form fully. As in the moon, even the dark areas of his figure retain a slight glimmer of reflected radiance.
This is the last known major work in Leonardo’s hand. The figure’s haunting beauty comes from the ambiguity of its sexual identity. The luminous face seems to be an emanation of the darkness that completely envelops it. The mysterious gesture of the raised arm with upward-pointing finger is not just of religious but probably also of esoteric significance.
That I must know him…
For I am beguiled of this man, this Robin Goodfellow, this Puck,
Who stirs my heart with dreams of youth and beauty,
And in so doing, must transform my sanity and comfort.
Thy hand is in this design…
That I must feel and know the feeling of myself again,
This time unfettered by the fear of a heart laid bare
And made safe beneath the layers of subterfuge and guile.
I was protected and guarded against this temptation.
It was not my intent to admit him in.
And yet my senses are filled with him-
He has taken residence within my heart-
an unwelcome yet delicious boarder
of dark mystery and feeling.
Thy hand is in this design…
For it was not my plan to be entranced.
I am bewitched and must look upon his face
and know the beauty there within.
What has Thou done to me at this middle hour of my life?
To what purpose am I torn apart
and destined to look again at the contents of my heart?
There is folly here and I will not a fool be made.
Yet my heart says trust- that in this design,
I might know Thy will for me.
Lead me forth from this summer’s dream
that I might awaken and know the truth of me.