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Description - Color Charts: A History by Anne Varichon

The need to categorise and communicate colour has mobilised practitioners and scholars for centuries. Color Charts describes the many different methods and ingenious devices developed since the fifteenth century by doctors, naturalists, dyers, and painters to catalogue fragments of colours. With the advent of industrial society, manufacturers and merchants developed some of the most beautiful and varied tools ever designed to present all the available colours. Thanks to them, society has discovered the abundance of colour embodied in a plethora of materials: cuts of fabric, leather, paper, and rubber; slats of wood and linoleum; delicate skeins of silk; careful deposits of paint and pastels; fragments of lipstick; and arrangements of flower petals. These samples shape a visual culture and a chromatic vocabulary and instill a deep desire for colour.

Anne Varichon traces the emergence of modern colour charts from a set of processes developed over the centuries in various contexts. She presents illuminating examples that bring this remarkable story to life, from ancient writings revealing attention to precise shade to contemporary designers’ colour charts, dyers’ notebooks, and Werner’s famous colour nomenclature. Varichon argues that colour charts have linked generations of artists, artisans, scientists, industrialists, and merchants, and have played an essential and enduring role in the way societies think about colour.

Drawing on nearly two hundred documents from public and private collections, almost all of them previously unpublished, this wonderfully illustrated book shows how the colour chart, in its many distinct forms and expressions, is a practical tool that has transcended its original purpose to become an educational aid and subject of contemplation worthy of being studied and admired.

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