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Today, art is bluer than ever


This graphic shows which colors have been most popular in art over the last two centuries.

In the history of pictorial art, and in particular during the last 200 years, warm colors have by far dominated their colder counterparts. In fact, the predominance of orange is notable, which is the most popular color among painters.

Proof of that is a graphic revealing which colors have been most used in 120,000 paintings from different eras, which are included in the BBC’s digital archive. The visualization, created by Martin Bellander, is the result of a chromatic hierarchy applied to the BBC’s database.

But in addition to the surprising hegemony of orange, the graphic demonstrates another unsuspected phenomenon: the recent popularization of blue. During the last half century the use of blue has seen sustained growth in pictorial art to the point that we could say art is bluer now than it has ever been.

“At first there is nothing, then there is a deep void, and after that a deep blue,” the French painter Yves Klein once said (who is attributed with the creation of a shade of blue).

It’s worth remembering that blue could be considered one of the most evocative colors of the spectrum. It contains something of mystery, a suggestive elegance that places it in high regard by poets – and it is perhaps the difficulty of describing it that makes it lend itself so well to metaphors.

And now, the question is, what are the causes and the consequences of this happy ‘blue-ification’ of art?

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