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- Discover why blue is the most popular colour in the world.
- Learn about the wide range of psychological and physiological effects that blue offers.
- Blue is often associated with positive emotions such as peace and tranquility, but it can also be associated with negative emotions such as sadness and despair.
- Blue can also be used to create a sense of depth and space in art and design.
Introduction: What Is the Meaning of The Colour Blue?
If you follow my blog, you may have already read the posts about black and white, but now it’s time to move on to the primary colours, beginning with the colour blue. One of the most popular and widely used colours in the world, this primary colour is often associated with calmness, trust, and security. However, its meaning goes far beyond just these few words.
In this comprehensive exploration, we will delve into the origins of the colour blue, its significance in art, psychology, and symbolism, and how it has influenced various aspects of our lives. Discover the science behind why the sky appears blue and the fascinating ways in which this colour has been utilised in ancient civilizations and modern-day design.
In this blog post, I will explore the various meanings and significances of the colour blue in different contexts, including history, culture, psychology, spirituality, and art. I hope that by the end of this post, you will have a better understanding of why the colour blue is so significant and how it can be used to convey different emotions and messages.
Join me as we uncover the hidden stories and secrets behind this enigmatic colour and gain a newfound appreciation for the beauty and impact of blue in our lives. Get ready to dive deep into the world of blue, where every shade holds a story waiting to be discovered.
The Fascinating History of the Colour Blue: From Ancient Times to Modern Day
Blue is a complex colour with many different meanings and interpretations. Understanding its significance can provide insight into our culture and history. Before we delve into the deeper meaning of the colour blue, let us first understand some of the reasons why blue is such an important colour:
Although some theories suggest that early humans were colourblind to blue or that blue pigment was not readily available, humans have used blue for thousands of years. In ancient civilizations such as Egypt and Mesopotamia, blue was a rare and expensive colour reserved for royalty and the wealthy.
Blue pigments were made from minerals such as lapis lazuli and azurite. Lapis lazuli was mined in the seventh millennium BC at the Sar-i Sang mines, Shortugai, and other mines in Badakhshan province in modern-day northeast Afghanistan. Other hues of blues were also obtained from plants such as woad and indigo.
Blue has also had many symbolic meanings in different mythologies and cultures. In Greek mythology, blue is associated with the sky god Zeus. In Native American culture, blue is associated with the sky and the spirit world. In Egyptian mythology, blue is the colour of the sky goddess Nut.
When Did the Colour Blue Originate?
However, did you know that the ancient Greeks and Romans didn’t have a term for blue?
The term “kyanos” was used by the ancient Greeks to designate a variety of colours, including blue, green, and purple. The word “caeruleus” was used by the ancient Romans to describe the colour of the sky and sea, but it is unclear if they discriminated between blue and green to the same extent that we do today.
Furthermore, the colour wheel took its time to add blue. Isaac Newton invented the first colour wheel in 1666. Newton’s colour wheel was based on the colours of the rainbow, but he did not include blue since he thought blue was a combination of other colours. Blue was not added to the colour wheel until the 18th century.
Blue in Royalty
The vivid hues attracted the Egyptians, who saved the pure, valuable lapis stone for royalty only.
For example, scarab lapis pendants were found in Tutankhamun’s tomb, and Cleopatra’s famous blue eye makeup was created by crushing the stone into powder.
When lapis was introduced into Europe during the 14th and 15th centuries, it was given the name ultramarine, or “beyond the sea”, and it quickly became the most sought-after colour in Europe.
The colour blue in heraldry played an important role, with various European royal families adopting it in their coats of arms. The five traditional hues, together with their heraldic names and meanings, are as follows:
- Red (Gules) = Military fortitude and magnanimity.
- Blue (Azure) = Loyalty and truth.
- Black (Sable) = Constancy and grief.
- Green (Vert) = Hope, joy and loyalty in love.
- Purple (Purpure) = Royal majesty, sovereignty and justice.
The significance of blue in royalty can also be seen in the popular phrase “royal blue”. In the 1880s, as part of a competition to design a garment for Queen Charlotte, royal blue was created in England, a deep shade that has come to be associated with nobility, power, and prestige.
Today, blue is still used in many national flags, including those of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, to name a few. It has become a symbol of patriotism and national identity, representing the values and ideals of these countries.
What Is the Meaning of Blue Bloods?
The word blood has long referred to family ties: people you are related to share the same blood.
The term “blue blood” has long been associated with nobility and royalty. It refers to individuals who belong to the highest echelons of society, typically associated with the aristocracy or those born into socially prominent families.
The phrase derives from the belief that these elite people’s veins seemed bluer due to their light skin, allowing the underlying veins to be more visible. This physical feature became a mark of their high rank and privileged bloodline.
Citizens, not Subjects
Peasants and labourers working in the sun were supposed to have darker complexions and unseen veins. Unlike the royal families, who lived in palaces and had much lighter skin, their veins were more visible.
Legitimacy Is Born of Paternity, Which Is Bred of Genealogy
Blue bloods have maintained tremendous power and influence throughout history, with their noble titles and inherited wealth granting them access to unique privileges and opportunities. They have frequently held positions of power, changing the political landscape and influencing societal standards.
Beyond its literal meaning, the phrase “blue bloods” connotes a sense of genealogy, heritage, and tradition. It signifies respect and distinction, emphasising the long-standing societal systems that have shaped the world we live in. While the term’s origins may be traced back to physical observations, its relevance stretches far beyond physiology.
The Spiritual Meaning of the Colour Blue
The use of blue in religion is a fascinating and significant aspect of its symbolism. Across various faiths and cultures, the colour blue holds deep spiritual meaning and is often associated with divine power and transcendence. From ancient times to the present day, blue has been employed in religious rituals, art, and sacred spaces to evoke a sense of awe and connection to the divine.
Blue has deep spiritual meaning in many religions and spiritual traditions. Let us explore some of them:
The colour blue is firmly steeped in symbolism and has a significant value in Jewish culture. One of the most notable depictions of blue in Judaism is the use of blue thread in the tzitzit, the fringes affixed to the corners of a tallit (prayer shawl).
Jewish law requires that the tzitzit contain a blue thread known as tekhelet, which comes from a special marine organism. This thread is a reminder of the commandments and their relationship to the divine.
The association of blue with the divine can also be seen in the journeys of the Ark of the Covenant, a sacred chest that housed the tablets of the Ten Commandments. The Ark was adorned with gold and covered with a blue cloth that symbolized the divinity and royalty of its contents. Furthermore, in Jewish mysticism known as Kabbalah, blue is frequently associated with spirituality, wisdom, the oceans, and the heavens.
Beyond its religious significance, blue has a distinct position in Jewish culture and rituals. The blue and white colors featured on the Israeli flag represent the Jewish people’s national identity.
When the Roman Empire disintegrated into various feudal kingdoms, the eastern half of the once-mighty empire created the Byzantine Empire.
Chariot racing had long delighted the Romans, who regularly battled between four color-themed teams of red, white, green, and blue. Each team developed a cult following among the entertainment-hungry population.
By the sixth century, the four colour-themed chariot-racing teams had absorbed each other: the Greens had incorporated the Reds, and the Whites had been absorbed into the Blues.
- The Greens stood for Monophysitism, the rejection of established religious ideas, and the common people.
- The Blues, on the other hand, were associated with religious orthodoxy and the upper classes.
Both teams were extremely popular in Byzantium, which had its capital at Constantinople. Their zealous followers were frequently responsible for provoking violent disturbances.
Over time, these two hues gradually grew into pseudo-political parties with enormous power over the general population. Byzantine society was now divided by its support for two color-themed political factions: the Greens and the Blues. It was a divide between the blue symbolism of aristocracy and religious orthodoxy and the green symbolism of commonality and religious abandonment.
Deeply rooted in Catholic symbolism, Mary is often depicted wearing a blue robe, which symbolises purity, protection, and maternal love. The colour blue is also believed to represent heaven and the celestial realm, emphasising the transcendent nature of the divine. For blue, along with its close cousin purple, was associated with Byzantine royalty.
Her shirt’s red colour signifies love, passion, and devotion—all traits connected with motherhood and exemplified by Mary’s presence at the Crucifixion. This may have been inspired by the colour often worn by Byzantine empresses at the time.
Nevertheless, it also represented all things heavenly and divine. Mary was also a figure of authority and motherhood, and in this, she illustrated truth and peace. In medieval Europe, blue became a symbol of these virtues and feminine energy and was used extensively in religious art.
The depiction of Mary during the Renaissance came at a cost, as artists had mixed feelings when using the expensive deep blue ultramarine that was a signature of many paintings of the era. In fact, many Renaissance painters would often use ultramarine as a sign of wealth and luxury in their paintings. The pigment was so expensive that only the wealthiest could afford to commission paintings that featured it.
It was only used in significant works of art, such as Sassoferrato’s Praying Madonna (circa 1660), and it remained a privilege until a synthetic version was invented in the 19th century.
Although the substance was rare and expensive, it was eventually replicated by mixing sand and copper minerals in a heated furnace to make the first synthetic blue pigment. This cheaper version of blue was originally known as hsbd-iryt – ‘fake lapis lazuli’. One thing is certain: ornamental blue and its reputation as a colour originated with the rare semi-precious stone lapis lazuli.
Biblical Meaning of Colours
Blue spiritually signifies the healing power of God. It is the most sublime subject and colour which biblically represents the Word of God.
Liturgical hues are special colors used for vestments and hangings in the context of Christian liturgy. The symbolism of violet, blue, white, green, red, gold, black, rose, and other hues may help to emphasize feelings suitable to a season of the liturgical year or to emphasize a unique occasion.
Blue as a Symbol of Divine Protection and Guidance: Hinduism
In Hinduism, blue is primarily associated with Lord Krishna, one of the most beloved and widely worshipped gods. He is often depicted with blue skin, symbolizing his divine and transcendent nature. His bluish complexion is believed to represent infinity, the vastness of the sky, and the boundless depths of the ocean. It is said that his enchanting blue hue emanates a sense of tranquility and cosmic harmony.
Blue is also associated with a number of other prominent deities in Hinduism, such as:
Lord Shiva, the infinite and cosmic energy, symbolizing his vast power and transformative abilities.
Lord Rama, the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu, who is often depicted wearing blue attire, signifying his royal heritage and his embodiment of righteousness and virtue.
Beyond the representation of specific deities, blue is also symbolic of the divine and spiritual realm in Hindu philosophy. It is considered the color of the throat chakra, known as Vishuddha, which is associated with communication, self-expression, and higher consciousness. This chakra is believed to be the gateway to enlightenment and inner wisdom.
In Hindu rituals and ceremonies, blue is frequently utilized in the form of sacred powders, known as “gulal,” which are used for religious celebrations and festivals.
Wisdom and Growth: Buddhism
In Buddhism, blue is often associated with the concepts of spirituality and transcendence. It is regarded as the color of the pure sky and expansive space, representing a boundless expanse where enlightenment and awakening can be achieved. Blue is believed to reflect the profound depth of wisdom and the infinite potential for spiritual growth.
One of the most prominent Buddhist figures associated with the color blue is the Medicine Buddha, also known as the Blue Buddha. The Medicine Buddha is often depicted wearing a blue robe, signifying his ability to alleviate suffering and bring about spiritual and physical well-being.
In Buddhist art and architecture, the color blue is often employed to create a serene and contemplative atmosphere. From the vibrant blue roofs adorning temples to the intricate blue patterns found in Thangka paintings, the presence of blue visually transports individuals into a state of tranquility and introspection.
Furthermore, the blue lotus, known as the utpala, holds profound symbolism within Buddhism. It is associated with purity and enlightenment, as it emerges unstained from the murky depths of the water, blossoming into a pristine flower. The blue lotus serves as a reminder of the potential for spiritual growth and transformation amidst the challenges of life.
By incorporating the color blue into their practices, rituals, and visual representations, Buddhists connect with the inherent serenity and wisdom that this hue encapsulates. It serves as a visual reminder of the path towards enlightenment and the profound tranquility that lies within.
The use of blue in Islam is seen in the traditional architecture of mosques and Islamic art. Intricate blue tile work, known as azulejo, can be found adorning the walls and domes of mosques, creating breathtaking displays of artistry and spirituality. These intricate patterns and designs serve not only as decorative elements but also as a means of connecting with the divine.
The Blue Quran is among the most famous works of Islamic calligraphy, notable for its gold lettering on a rare indigo-colored parchment. The manuscript was most likely created in the late ninth to mid-tenth centuries in either Kairouan, Tunisia, or Cordoba, Umayyad Spain.
Whether it be the calming presence of the Virgin Mary, the cosmic energy of Hindu deities, or the healing qualities associated with the Medicine Buddha, the colour blue in religious contexts, serves as a powerful symbol of the divine and its profound impact on human spirituality.
Cultural Associations with the Colour Blue
Across different cultures and societies, the colour blue holds various symbolic meanings and associations. In Western cultures, blue is often associated with masculinity, as it is seen as a strong and stable colour. It is commonly used for boys’ clothing and accessories, representing strength and reliability. In contrast, Eastern cultures associate blue with femininity and beauty.
In China, for example, blue is considered a lucky colour and is often used in traditional clothing and decorations. Whereas, in Japan, blue is associated with the sea and the sky and is often used in traditional art forms such as pottery and textiles.
Blue for Healing and Calming
Blue is often used in alternative and complementary medicine to promote healing and relaxation. It is believed to have a calming effect on the mind and body and to promote feelings of peace and tranquility.Blue gemstones such as sapphires and aquamarines are often used in crystal healing to promote emotional balance and clarity of thought.
Ol ‘ Blue Eyes
A publicity-driven moniker for legendary US singer Frank Sinatra (1915-1998), a teenage idol in his twenties. His vivid blue eyes earned him the nickname. Although he retired in November 1970, he returned to the music industry in 1973 with the record “Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back.”
These cultural associations with the colour blue highlight its universal appeal and the diverse meanings it holds across different societies.
Different Shades and Variations of Blue
Blue is a colour that encompasses a wide range of shades and variations. From the palest baby blue to the deepest navy, each shade of blue holds its own unique characteristics and meanings.
Lighter shades of blue, such as sky blue and baby blue, are often associated with calmness and tranquility.They evoke a sense of serenity and innocence, making them popular choices for nurseries and bedrooms.
On the other end of the spectrum, darker shades of blue, like navy blue and midnight blue, convey a sense of power and authority. Navy blue is often associated with professionalism and is commonly used in corporate settings. It represents strength, confidence, and reliability. These darker shades of blue are also often used in fashion and interior design to create a sense of sophistication and elegance.
In addition to the different shades of blue, variations of blue can also be found in various art forms and design elements. Turquoise, for example, is a blue-green colour that is often associated with the ocean and tropical environments. It represents tranquillity and relaxation and is commonly used in vacation destinations and beach-themed decor. Teal, another variation of blue, is a vibrant and energetic colour that represents creativity and self-expression.
These variations of blue add depth and dimension to the colour palette, allowing for a wide range of artistic and design possibilities.
Blue pigments have played a remarkable role in the rich tapestry of art history, enabling artists to skillfully capture the captivating beauty and profound symbolism associated with the majestic color blue. From the precious ultramarine used by Renaissance masters to the vibrant synthetic pigments of today, blue pigments have always been a source of inspiration and emotion for art lovers worldwide.
Each hue plays a vital role in the creation of captivating blue colors in various forms of art, such as painting. These pigments can be either natural or synthetic materials that are insoluble in water. Usually derived from minerals, they have been used throughout history to capture the vibrant and calming shades of blue.
Glass as Raw Material for Paint
In ancient times, people used various tinted minerals containing cobalt to add color to glass and ceramics. One well-known example is smalt, a blue-colored glass that has been used as a paint raw material since the Middle Ages. The glass was ground and mixed with a binder.
For a considerable period, cobalt blue served as a cost-effective substitute for ultramarine, which was derived from the rare Afghan semi-precious stone, lapis lazuli. Obtaining lapis lazuli was challenging and came with a hefty price tag. However, the main disadvantage was that adding too much oil would eventually cause the blue color to change to a dirty grey-green.
One of the earliest blue pigments used was ultramarine, derived from the magnificent mineral lapis lazuli. Found deep within the mines of Afghanistan, lapis lazuli is a captivating deep blue stone. Through refinement, it became the prestigious and highly sought-after pigment known as ultramarine, making it one of the most esteemed and costly blue pigments in history.
Renaissance artists frequently reserved the use of ultramarine for special purposes, such as depicting the robes of the Virgin Mary. The renowned Dutch painter, Johannes Vermeer, employed ultramarine sparingly to draw attention to specific surfaces in his masterful artworks.
Azurite is another blue pigment that has been utilized throughout history. It is derived from the copper mineral of the same name and forms from the weathering of copper ore deposits.
Azurite was often used as a less expensive substitute for ultramarine during the Renaissance. Paintings would have lower layers painted in azurite, while the most visible portions would be painted in ultramarine. However, azurite has a drawback of degrading and darkening over time.
The pigment Indigo was already popular among artists early in history. First among the Romans and later, particularly between the 14th and 19th centuries, among artists in the rest of Europe.
The blue colour was originally extracted from plants. These natural blue colourants disappeared from the scene when the German chemist Adolf van Baeyer developed a synthetic alternative.
These days, indigo is made from pigments with excellent lightfastness.
Use hex colour code: #04b0082.
Indigo: Blue Plant Extract
The colour Indigo has a long history that stretches probably even before the Christian era. The name comes from the Greek word Indikon, or ‘paint stuff from India’.
Indigo was originally extracted from plants that contained the dye Indigotine. In Europe, this was the Woad plant. Only the leaves were used, which were ground and then soaked in vats of hot water until they had fermented.
This process released a sweet-smelling dye that coloured the water yellow. The plant remains were filtered out, and the water was transferred to shallow basins. Then, by slapping the water with sticks, oxygen was added, which initiated a chemical process.
This resulted in blue sediment forming on the sides and bottom of the basin. This sediment was scraped off, formed into cakes, and left to dry. In order to make paint, these cakes were ground and then mixed with a binder such as egg or wax.
Indigo blue cannot really be defined, as it greatly depends on the type and quality of the plants from which it is extracted.
During the Industrial Revolution, the German chemist Adolf von Baeyer managed to analyse and synthesise Indigo. A production method was developed so that after 1915, the Indigo plant was hardly ever used again.
However, this pigment introduced by Von Baeyer has since also been superseded. The main reason was that its lightfastness left a lot to be desired. Indigo in Rembrandt watercolour is made using a combination of two pigments that produce a lightfastness of at least a hundred years under museum conditions.
Although there are a number of terms that have used the phrase Blue Monday from:
The English rock band New Order, with their 1983 “Blue Monday” which is the best-selling 12-inch single of all time.
- Cliff Arnall, a psychologist, devised the third Monday of the month in January in 2004, after Sky Travel asked him for a ‘scientific formula’ for the January blues. The ‘formula,’ which has been contested throughout the years, considers a variety of elements, such as post-holiday blues, miserable weather, debt levels and low motivation levels. All of those elements have combined to make the day renowned as the most depressing of the year.
However, the phrase ‘Blue Monday‘ may have originated from a less aromatic way of dyeing textiles with urine.
Cakes are dried dye blocks that must first be soaked in tubs, generally referred to as vats, filled with water, bran, and urine, resulting in a yellow solution. The textile was then immersed in this solution, generally on a Saturday, before being hung up to dry on Monday.
If the temperature is right, with time, bacteria break down the urea and other components of the urine into ammonia. It is the ammonia that gives the pungent smell to stale urine. The bacteria remove the oxygen, while ammonia makes the vat alkaline. These are the two requirements of an indigo vat to ensure a good transfer of dye to the textiles.
When the textile substrate is removed from the vat and hung to dry, the blue coloration reappears as a result of being reintroduced to the oxygen in the air. This method of colouring fabrics was a thriving trade, especially in:
- The Low Countries (also called Benelux countries, coastal region of northwestern Europe, consisting of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg),
- Thüringen, Germany.
If you are interested in finding out more about the science behind dying different colours, I recommend The Dyer’s Guide by Thomas Packer.
Not only that, if you ever end up getting stuck looking for a natural blue dye crossword clue, now you know!
Cobalt blue is a synthetic blue pigment that was invented in 1803 by French chemist, Louis Jacques Thénard.
The blue pigment is created by sintering cobalt (II) oxide with aluminium (III) oxide (alumina) at 1200 degrees Celsius. Cobalt blue pigment is chemically cobalt (II) oxide-aluminium oxide, or cobalt (II) aluminate, CoAl2O4. Cobalt blue is lighter and less vivid than Prussian blue (an iron-cyanide-based pigment).
It is very stable and resistant to fading, and has been used traditionally as a colouring agent in ceramics (particularly Chinese porcelain), jewellery, and paint.
The silica-based cobalt pigment “smalt” is used to colour clear glasses. Its origins probably lie in the blue pigment used by the ancient Egyptians, known as us as ‘Egyptian blue’; both pigments are made from glass that has been coloured blue and both are used as glazes on ceramics.
However, Egyptian blue contains copper, whereas smalt derives its colour from cobalt.
Making Cobalt a Stable Pigment
Thénard started to experiment with a cobalt-arsenic compound that was used in Sèvres porcelain. He discovered that a combination of cobalt oxide and aluminium oxide resulted in a highly stable blue pigment, the current cobalt blue. Later on, other colours based on cobalt were discovered as well.
At the end of the eighteenth century, for example, in combination with zinc oxide, cobalt green was discovered. In the course of the nineteenth century, the green-like Cerulean blue, cobalt violet, red cobalt, and cobalt yellow were developed with tin oxide, phosphate, magnesium oxide, and potassium oxide, respectively.
The more stable cadmium pigments have meanwhile replaced the red and yellow. The other colours are still used today and are known for their excellent lightfastness.
In 1807, commercial production began in France. In the eighteenth century, Benjamin Wegner’s Norwegian firm Blaafarvevaerket (“blue colour works” in Dano-Norwegian) was the largest global maker of cobalt blue.
Germany was also well known for its manufacturing, particularly the blue colour works (Blaufarbenwerke) in the Ore Mountains of Saxony.
It was developed as a more affordable and durable alternative to ultramarine, a natural blue pigment that was very expensive and difficult to produce.
Artists around the world quickly adopted cobalt blue, and it was used to create some of the most iconic works of art of the 19th century, including Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies.”
An Expensive Matter
Cobalt pigments are not only exceptionally lightfast but also quite expensive. Depending on the color, the price can exceed €300 euros per kilo. Among all the blue pigments, cobalt blue stands out as the only one with excellent opacity.
It continues to be widely used by artists today and finds application in various industrial sectors, including:
To enhance the strength and durability of plastics and elastomers, which ultimately makes them stronger and more resilient.
Cobalt plays a crucial role in the cathodes of nearly all lithium-ion batteries, providing stability and enhancing energy density. However, the demand for cobalt has significantly increased in recent years due to the rise of electric vehicles and consumer electronics.
However, as cobalt is a scarce, expensive, and toxic material. There is growing interest in the development of battery technology to replace cobalt with alternative materials, such as nickel.
In recent years, several new synthetic blue pigments have been discovered. One notable example is YInMn Blue, also known as Oregon Blue or Mas Blue.
This inorganic blue pigment was discovered by Mas Subramanian and his graduate student, Andrew Smith, at Oregon State University in 2009.
The pigment is remarkable for its vibrant, nearly perfect blue color and unusually high reflectance in Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS).
Manganese blue is a modern, inorganic synthetic pigment that was discovered in 1907 and patented in 1935. To create barium manganate, a mixture of sodium sulphate, potassium permanganate, and barium nitrate is heated at temperatures ranging from 750 to 800 degrees Celsius.
This combination produces a beautiful and vivid azure blue hue, known for its cleanliness and vibrancy, which is truly captivating.
However, genuine Manganese Blue has been discontinued due to environmental and health concerns related to its production. This light sky blue shade is now replicated using a combination of blue, green, and white pigments.
Did you know that pyrolusite, the primary source of manganese dioxide, is a mineral that was named manganese in honour of the ancient Greek tribe known as the Magnetes?
The natural weathering of copper to the characteristic blue-green or grey-green patina is a direct consequence of the mild corrosive attack of airborne sulphur compounds.
In the atmosphere, these compounds combine with water vapour to form dilute oxidising acids that react with copper surfaces.
The Art of Blue: Celebrating the Beauty and Creativity of Blue in Art and Design
Blue has long been a favourite colour in the art world, with its ability to evoke emotions and create a sense of tranquillity. Artists throughout history have used blue to convey a wide range of moods and themes in their works.
In Renaissance art, blue was often associated with the divine and was used to depict holy figures and celestial scenes. Artists such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci used blue extensively in their paintings to symbolise spirituality and transcendence.
In modern art, blue continues to be a popular choice for artists seeking to create a sense of calmness and serenity. Artists like Yves Klein and Mark Rothko are known for their use of vibrant blue hues in their abstract paintings. Blue is often used to create a sense of depth and space in artworks, as it has the ability to recede into the background and create a sense of distance. Its versatility and emotional impact make blue a timeless colour in the world of art and design.
Blue in Nature and the Environment
Blue is a colour that abundantly exists in the natural world, from the enchanting blue sky to the vastness of the ocean.
The captivating science behind the colour blue lies in the fascinating way light interacts with molecules in the atmosphere.
When sunlight passes through the Earth’s atmosphere, it gets scattered in all directions by the gases and particles present in the air. Among the different colours, blue light is scattered more due to its shorter and smaller waves. This scattering phenomenon is responsible for the blue appearance of the sky.
The colour blue is prevalent in bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, and oceans. The beautiful blue hue of water is a result of the way water molecules absorb and scatter light. While water absorbs colours in the red part of the spectrum, it reflects and scatters the captivating blue part of the spectrum. This is the reason why bodies of water appear blue to the human eye.
Blue is not only found in the sky and water but also in various plants and animals. The vibrant hue of blue flowers, such as forget-me-nots and hydrangeas, adds a delightful pop of colour to gardens and landscapes.
Birds, such as blue jays, blue tits, and kingfishers, are renowned for their vibrant feathers. The presence of the colour blue in nature enhances the beauty and allure of our surroundings, evoking a feeling of awe and wonder.
How Artists Use Blue to Denote the Sea and Sky
Artists have attempted to depict human interest in the elements throughout history, from crashing ocean waves to huge skyscapes. Sky-coloured cerulean and deep Prussian blue were fashionable colour palettes by the 18th century.
Once this was sourced from Europe, it was used by Japanese painters and woodblock printmakers who had previously been unable to obtain a long-lasting blue pigment.
Katsushika Hokusai worked with Prussian blue to produce The Great Wave off Kanagawa (1829-33), as well as other works in his Mount Fuji series.
David Hockney’s works from the 1960s and 1970s capture the inviting blue pools of his Hollywood Hills, California home, experimenting with splashes, ripples, and light. He said, ‘Whenever I left England, colours got stronger in the pictures. California always affected me with colour. Because of the light you see more…’
Similarly, artists have attempted to capture a moment in the changing blue tones of the sky. In Van Gogh’s classic 1889 work, Starry Night, cobalt and ultramarine oils were employed to represent an ethereal, whirling night sky accentuated by dazzling stars.
Furthermore, in her 1917 Light Coming on the Plains series, Georgia O’Keeffe’s abstract watercolour renderings of huge Southern American landscapes include those of blossoming indigo and golden sunrises; the artist often painted through the night to get the sky just right.
Exploring the Psychological Effects of Blue: How It Influences Our Mood and Behaviour
The colour blue has a profound impact on our psychological well-being. Numerous studies have demonstrated that blue has the remarkable ability to reduce heart rate and blood pressure, fostering a sense of relaxation and tranquillity.
Blue is frequently utilised in therapeutic settings to establish a soothing atmosphere for patients. Hospitals, for instance, incorporate blue into their interiors to aid in the reduction of stress levels and the creation of a healing environment.
The colour blue is widely recognised for its ability to enhance creativity and stimulate the mind, making it an ideal choice for workspaces and creative industries.
Blue is also associated with feelings of trust and dependability. Research has shown that people tend to associate the colour blue with reliability and integrity. This is the reason why numerous financial institutions and government agencies opt for blue in their branding, as it evokes a sense of trust and reliability among their customers.
Blue is frequently used on social media platforms due to its association with trustworthiness and credibility. The psychological impact of the colour blue extends beyond aesthetics and greatly influences our perception and behaviour.
Blue Food Colouring: Perception of Food
While there are naturally occurring blue foods like blueberries, cheese, and corn, food coloring opens up a world of creative possibilities in the kitchen. This versatile coloring agent can add a hint of enchantment to a wide range of dishes, from fluffy blueberry pancakes to captivating unicorn-themed pastries.
Imagine the joy that will light up the faces of your loved ones when they are presented with a platter of cookies adorned with beautiful shades of blue or a refreshing blue lemonade on a scorching summer day. Blue food coloring not only enhances the aesthetic appeal of your dishes, but it also adds a touch of surprise and inventiveness to the dining experience.
When working with blue food colouring, a little goes a long way. Just a few drops can magically transform a plain batter or frosting into a mesmerising shade of blue. However, it is crucial to exercise caution and use food coloring responsibly. Make sure that it is safe for consumption and adheres to dietary restrictions.
It possesses a remarkable ability to evoke a sense of wonder and joy, captivating both children and adults in a realm of culinary enchantment. However, it’s not just about appearances; colours also have a profound psychological impact on how we perceive food.
Research suggests that incorporating blue food colouring into meals can help reduce hunger and aid in portion management and mindful eating. As a result, serving meals on a blue plate can be advantageous for individuals who are watching their weight.
Furthermore, it’s worth noting that this particular color is often associated with leisure. Many coffee shops opt for blue decor, while formal restaurants incorporate it, or its softer shades, to encourage longer visits.
Though no one can agree on the origins of the phrase ‘feeling blue’, it has been featured in dictionaries since the 18th century. One of its first appearances was in A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue under the description ‘To look blue; to be confounded, terrified, or disappointed.
Artists have often used blue to signify sorrow, depression, and poverty during the Impressionist and Symbolist eras. In the eerie blue tones of Kiss by the Window (1892), Edvard Munch depicts his depression about failures in his love life, and Paul Cézanne’s weeping figure in the aptly titled Sorrow is wrapped in blue (1867).
Picasso’s Blue Period (1901–1904), which characterised his deep depressive period following the death of close friend Carles Casagemas, is the most well-known. ‘It was thinking about Casagemas that inspired me to start painting in blue.’
Other works, such as The Old Guitarist (1903) and Melancholy Woman (1902–3), are mostly monochrome blue and blue-green paintings of impoverished and suffering characters.
However, art buyers were less attracted to these gloomy, emotive subjects, and Picasso retreated from people around him during these years, pushing the artist farther into poverty.
Blue in Branding and Marketing
By understanding the multifaceted meanings of blue, you can truly appreciate its nuances in art, culture, science, and even marketing. This hue holds great significance in branding and marketing strategies, thanks to its powerful psychological impact and associations with trust and dependability.
Numerous renowned brands incorporate shades of blue in their logos and branding to evoke a sense of reliability and credibility.
IBM, for example, uses a bold shade of blue in its logo to convey trustworthiness and innovation.
Facebook also utilises blue in its branding, as it represents a sense of community and connectivity.
Blue is often seen as a sign of stability and reliability, and Ford uses the colour to represent its values and culture.
Blue is often used in marketing campaigns to promote products and services that are associated with trust and dependability.
Think of the number of banks and financial institutions that use blue in their advertising to instill confidence in their customers.
Blue is also commonly used in healthcare branding, as it represents a sense of reliability and care.
The colour blue possesses the power to influence consumer perception and behavior, making it a valuable tool in the realm of marketing and branding.
Blue in Fashion and Interior Design
Blue is a colour that is often associated with fashion and interior design due to its versatility and timeless appeal. In fashion, blue is a popular choice for both casual and formal wear.
Lighter shades of blue, such as powder blue and pastel blue, are often used in summer collections as they evoke a sense of freshness and lightness.
Darker shades of blue, like navy blue and royal blue, are commonly used in formal attire as they represent elegance and sophistication.
The Rise of Denim
We previously discussed how the usage of plant-based indigo to colour fabric extends back thousands of years in various cultures, and how it was a vital item trafficked on the Silk Road. A synthetic version of indigo was produced by the 19th century, and it was used to dye denim a century later.
Denim overalls and jeans were a popular uniform for labourers and people in heavy labour positions around the world, such as miners, due to their durability, low cost, ease of washing, and ability to conceal dirt.
When tailor Jacob W. Davis introduced his innovation of the denim jean to businessperson Levi Strauss in 1873, they both patented the item under the brand Levi Strauss & Co.
Hollywood actors such as James Dean popularised jeans in the 1950s and 1960s. As jeans became more socially acceptable, they evolved into what they are today: one of the most popular casual, everyday wear items. Blue’s versatility and adaptability are exemplified by its long and convoluted path from its regal beginnings.
In the world of interior design, the colour blue holds a special place. It is a hue that evokes a sense of tranquility and serenity, making it an ideal choice for creating peaceful and calming spaces. Whether used as a dominant shade or as an accent colour, blue has the power to transform any room into a soothing sanctuary.
Colour psychology plays a significant role in interior design decisions, and blue is known to have a calming effect on our emotions. It can help reduce stress levels and promote relaxation, making it perfect for bedrooms, living rooms, or any space where you want to unwind after a long day.
One of the remarkable qualities of blue is its versatility. From light shades like sky blue to deeper tones like navy or teal, there’s a shade of blue for every style and mood. It can be incorporated into various design schemes, from coastal and nautical themes to modern and minimalist aesthetics.
Blue as a Design Trend: How to Incorporate this Calming Hue into Your Home
Interior design, trends come and go, but one colour that has stood the test of time is the serene and calming hue of blue. The colour blue has long been associated with tranquility, peace, and relaxation, making it a perfect choice for creating a soothing and inviting atmosphere in your home.
As it complements a wide range of colour palettes and styles, one way to incorporate blue into your home is through carefully selected furniture pieces.
Consider a plush blue sofa or armchair as the focal point of your living room, creating a cosy and inviting space for relaxation and conversation. Pair it with neutral-coloured accents and soft textures to create a harmonious and balanced look.
If you prefer a more subtle approach, opt for blue accents throughout your space. A carefully chosen piece of artwork featuring shades of blue can serve as a captivating focal point in any room.
Additionally, incorporating blue-coloured accessories such as throw pillows, rugs, or curtains can instantly transform the ambiance of your space, adding a touch of serenity and elegance.
Blue flowers, such as bluebells and forget-me-nots, are often used in gardens and floral arrangements to create a peaceful and serene atmosphere.
For a bolder statement, consider painting an accent wall in a shade of blue that suits your style and complements your existing decor. Softer shades of light blue on walls can make a room feel more spacious and airy, while darker shades of blue can add a touch of drama and sophistication.
Whether it is a coastal-inspired living room or a minimalist bedroom, blue can add a touch of serenity, style through the healing power of art to any space.
Common Misconceptions About Blue
Blue is a complex and fascinating colour with a rich history and symbolism. It is often associated with feelings of calmness, tranquility, peace, and intelligence. However, there are many misconceptions about blue.
Misconception 1: Blue is a Simple Colour
Blue is not a simple colour. It has a wide range of hues and shades, from bright and vibrant to dark and mysterious. It can be playful and whimsical, or it can be serious and sophisticated.
Misconception 2: The Sky is Blue
According to one belief, this is because the oceans are blue and sunlight reflects off the surface water, creating a blue glow above.
Another widely held belief is that the sky looks blue because of all the rainfall that are yet to fall to Earth. According to Greek mythology, it is blue because Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war and the daughter of Zeus, asked her father to make it so that her face could be seen by the entire world all year. He then turned the sky blue to match her eyes.
The sky is blue because of a phenomenon called Rayleigh scattering. This occurs when sunlight interacts with the tiny molecules of air in the atmosphere. Shorter wavelengths of light, such as blue, are scattered more than longer wavelengths, such as red. This is why we see a blue sky.
Other Blue Facts
In many cultures, blue is associated with masculinity, strength, and power. For example, in ancient Egypt, blue was the colour of the gods, and in China, it is the colour of the emperor.
Blue is the rarest colour in nature. There are very few naturally occurring blue pigments, so blue has historically been a very expensive colour to produce. This is why blue is often associated with luxury and wealth.
Blue is the most popular colour in the world. Blue is the favourite colour of over half of the world’s population. This is likely due to the fact that blue is associated with so many positive emotions and qualities.
Blue is the colour of intelligence and trustworthiness. Studies have shown that people associate the colour blue with intelligence, competence, and trustworthiness. As I mentioned earlier, this is why blue is often used in corporate branding and marketing.
Blue is a powerful colour that can evoke a wide range of emotions and associations. It is important to remember that blue is more than just a colour; it is a complex and fascinating force.
Conclusion: The Enduring Allure of the Colour Blue
The colour blue possesses an incredibly rich and diverse history, encompassing meanings that range from tranquillity and calmness to trust and loyalty. Its prominence in art, literature, religion, and culture has solidified its status as a significant and influential colour throughout the course of human history.
By understanding and appreciating the multiple layers of meaning behind the color blue, we can harness its power more effectively in our lives. Whether it’s in our personal relationships, creative endeavors, or professional pursuits, blue can bring depth and significance to our experiences.
In summary, the color blue is a powerful and versatile color that can effectively convey a wide range of emotions and messages. By exploring the multiple meanings and associations of this beautiful and enigmatic color, we can gain a deeper understanding of its significance and truly appreciate its profound influence on our lives and the world around us.
Allow the colour blue to inspire you, inviting a sense of calmness, creativity, and trust as you gracefully navigate through the vibrant and rich tapestry of life.
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- Azurite Photo by Ivar Leidus
- Winged Scarab Pendant of King Tutankhamun. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 61884 Photo: Cris Bouroncle
Adrian Reynolds, or ‘Ren,’ is a Dublin-based contemporary artist. His works are a reaction to the world around us. A world that continues to evolve quicker than ever. His work investigates colour, form, and texture, putting them at the intersection of abstraction and representation. His art has been shown in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.