Review of ‘The Secret Lives of Colour’ by Kassia St Clair

Heliotrope. Isabelline. Amaranth. Celadon. Minium. These are just some of the shades featured in this fun and interesting book about colours. Kassia St Clair takes us on a journey through the spectrum from white to black, examining in concise detail the history, creation and meanings behind the colours. The book was first published in 2016 by John Murray.

I was already familiar with this topic, as it’s one of my interests. I still learned some new things from the book and I enjoyed how the information was presented. The chapters are very short, perfect for when you haven’t got much time to read – the author devotes 2 or 3 pages to each shade. Although there are no images, every shade is illustrated. The book feels like a starting point, allowing you to get a taste for the fascinating subject of colour without getting too complicated. There are plenty of sources and suggestions for further reading.

Art history, colour theory, technology, fashion and psychology are blended with careful research and an engaging writing style. The result: a work of art. It’s also my ideal kind of non-fiction. Easy to read, thought-provoking, amusing and packed full of trivia. I can’t think of anything else to say about it, other than that I loved it! Oh, and I’m still shocked about the pigment ‘Mummy brown’ even though I’ve known about it for years. How did anyone think it was ever acceptable? (Google it if you’re curious).

5 thoughts on “Review of ‘The Secret Lives of Colour’ by Kassia St Clair”

    1. It’s a fascinating topic and easy to read – I love the cover too 🙂

    1. Yes, I think you’d like this book 🙂

      I know… I work in an art gallery and I’m looking around wondering if any of the works used mummy brown 🙁

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