> Skip to content
  • Published: 26 August 2021
  • ISBN: 9780141976662
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 320

The World According to Colour

A Cultural History




A beguiling cultural history of colour, by one of the rising stars of art history

The subject of this book is mankind's extraordinary relationship with colour. It is composed of a series of voyages, ranging across the world and throughout history, which reveal the meanings that have been attached to the colours we see around us and the ways these have shaped our culture and imagination. It takes seven primary colours - black, red, yellow, blue, white, purple and green - and uncovers behind each a root idea, based on visual resemblances or properties so rudimentary as to be common to all societies.

The book traces these meanings to show how they changed and multiplied, the role that they have played in our culture and history, and how understanding them allows us to see many of the milestones in the history of art - from Bronze Age gold-work to Turner, Titian to Yves Klein - in a new way. It proceeds by stories, which cumulatively tell another, larger one: a history of the world from the black nothing which preceded existence to the birth of our red-blooded species; the gilded gods who animated the world in antiquity to the blue horizons which framed the Age of Discovery; the pristine aspirations of Enlightenment, the technicolour innovation which fuelled the Industrial Revolution and the colour which most embodies the environmental crisis which now faces us.

  • Published: 26 August 2021
  • ISBN: 9780141976662
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 320

About the author

James Fox

James Fox was born in Washington DC in 1945 and educated in England. He worked as a journalist in Africa and then in England, for the Sunday Times and the Observer, and has written for numerous other publications. White Mischief was made into a movie starring Greta Scacchi and Charles Dance.

Also by James Fox

See all

Praise for The World According to Colour

admirable ... The World According to Colour is a brilliant cultural history ... This intelligent, vividly written book is full of such black, red, yellow, blue, white, purple and green nuggets.

Laura Freeman, The Times

a tour de force ... he weaves together the historical, cultural and scientific background to provide context for a succession of bravura insights ... this is a brilliant book

Honor Clerk, The Spectator

In this compelling book, James Fox shows that the meanings connected to particular colours aren't arbitrary but are instead materially, socially and culturally determined ... One of a flurry of recent books on colour, Fox's is distinguished by his broad historical approach and by the diversity of perspectives and sources ... The greatest pleasure of this book is the way Fox's essays move fluently between the material, moral and historical ... This is a book that makes you want to paint.

Joad Raymond, BBC History Magazine

the book is a pleasure... a compelling and elegant...a rare achievement - a scholarly reference work that invites reading for pleasure.

Florence Hallett, i news

fascinating...In this book (Fox) has gifted each of us a manual to navigate and enjoy the extraordinary design of the world around us.

Anna Galbraith, Mail on Sunday

Fox glides into intellectual spaces; colour becomes a philosophical feast - astrophyscis, the origins of civilisation, a palette of moral associations. Though dazzling, everything has a point: when Fox shoots, he scores. You never see it coming, then suddenly all the pieces fit together as though they were meant to be

Ed Smith, New Statesman Books of the Year

For once, no problem with Christmas presents this year. The World According to Colour by James Fox is a brilliantly fluent and readable history of colour, galloping across a wide cultural and scientific landscape.

Honor Clerk, Spectator Books of the Year

Related titles