Bow Down to Blue: l'outremer est là pour rester

There are many different shades of blue that have changed the art scene. Cobalt Blue, Prussian Blue and more have expanded the blue palette for artists. Another blue is taking center stage. Ultramarine is ultra chic, and it’s here to stay.

Enjoy this edition of Color Story, one of the many features from the newly relaunched Artists Magazine, the publication that is all about creative chaos, the fun aspects of painting and drawing, and living an artful life.

Bringing Blue to Light

Dating back as far as the 13th century, ultramarine blue was made from the semiprecious stone lapis lazuli, mined in what is now Afghanistan.

Photo credit: SunChan/Getty Images

To save money, artists often used a cheaper blue pigment as a base layer and covered only the surface of their work with more expensive ultramarine. Titian, however, wasn’t one to cut corners, and he made use of Venice’s location as a trading port and gateway to the East to purchase the vibrant pigments he desired. From the looks of Bacchus and Ariadne, he spared no expense.

Bacchus and Ariadne by Titian ca 1520–23; oil on canvas, 691/2×753/16 NATIONAL GALLERY, LONDON

Today, ultramarine and other blue tones are as prized as ever, helping to beautify our homes and glamorize our wardrobes.

Ultramarine in Fashion: Bright and Bold Choices

Blue is a rich and elegant color. Not only was the paint expensive, the dye for clothes was as well. The color has often been associated with royalty and that trend continues with well-known public figures like royals and actresses wearing the bold shade.

Photo credit: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, shows elegance in a Roksanda Ilincic dress in London, displaying how this blue is truly a royal color.

Photo credit: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Earrings courtesy of BaubleBar

Titian blue is having its moment in fashion, as seen in these BaubleBar periwinkle tassel earrings and actress Kerry Washington’s tea-length Emm Kuo dress.

Adding Ultramarine Decor: Mood Shifts Through Color

Scientific studies have found that red environments increase stress responses, while green and white environments do not. The most calming colors are usually in the blue family. Adding blue elements isn’t just a beautiful decoration, it can set the tone for the room.

Photo credit: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

The centuries-old Wedgwood ceramics company gave its name to the color Wedgwood blue, seen on this 20th-century vase.

Photo credit: Jumping Rocks/UIG via Getty Images

Painting your bedroom blue can help improve your sleep. Blue helps to encourage calm and relaxation. Don’t want to commit to a full room of blue? Try adding blue accents in the decor with blankets, pillows and art.

Photo credit: Ken Hively/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Artist Miriam Wosk didn’t just add a little blue. She fully embraced the color and created a blue haven. Her cobalt-blue guesthouse is an homage to Frida Kahlo’s famous blue studio in Mexico City.

Is this color a passing trend or will it continue to be a powerhouse shade? Let us know what you think!

A version of this story appeared in Artists Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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