On The Colour Blue

“The secret of blue is well kept. Blue comes from far away. On its way, it hardens and changes into a mountain. The cicada works at it. The birds assist. In reality, one doesn’t know….The mystery of sapphire, mystery of Sainte Vierge, mystery of the siphon, mystery of the sailor’s collar, mystery of the blue rays that blind and your blue eye which goes through my heart.”

— Jean Cocteau, from “The Secret of Blue”


“Blue makes no noise. It is a shy colour, without ulterior motives, forewarning or plan; it does not leap out abruptly at the eye like yellow or red, but draws it in, tames it little by little, lets it come unhurriedly, so that it sinks in and drowns, unaware.” 

— Jean-Michel Maulpoix, A Matter of Blue: Poems


“Blue still brings a principle of darkness with it. This colour has a peculiar and almost indescribable effect on the eye. As a hue it is powerful but it is on the negative side, and in its highest purity is, as it were, a stimulating negation.”

— Goethe, Theory of Colours


“For many years, I have been moved by the blue at the far edge of what can be seen, that color of horizons, of remote mountain ranges, of anything far away. The color of that distance is the color of an emotion, the color of solitude and of desire, the color of there seen from here, the color of where you are not. And the color of where you can never go.” 

— Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost


"Synthetic ultramarine, due to its lack of mineral inclusions, boasts a richer tone than its semiprecious predecessor [lapis lazuli]. Traditionalists like Andrew Wyeth insisted on grinding the original, at great personal expense, even with the artificial paint readily available. “A color may be too pure. Modern shades and colors often appear hideous, ironically, because of their extreme purity,” writes Alexander Theroux in his triptych of essays The Primary Colors. “Old-fashioned blue, which had a dash of yellow in it … now seems often incongruous against newer, staring, overly luminous eye-killing shades.” In our pursuit of perfection, of unspoiled coloration, we purged colors of their unique characters.

Even the finest natural ultramarine, ground assiduously by hand, is riddled with odd minerals: calcite, pyrite, augite, mica. These deposits cause the light to be refracted and transmitted in subtly different ways. No two strokes of paint are the same in their fundamental composition. Stand at the right angle and you might catch a quiet glimmer of white or gold, like a prick of light from some distant province of the cosmos."

Ravi Mangla