16 Nov 2020 | Reflections

Blue in the Perfect Tense

The Swiss company Caran D’Ache who make artist and writing products such as paints, coloured crayons and iconic pens have launched a new product range based on the mid-20th Century French artist Yves Klein and his creation of a blue hue called International Klein Blue (IKB). 

Blue is the invisible becoming visible. Blue has no dimensions, it is beyond the dimensions of which other colours partake.

Klein’s blue is a synthetic version of Ultramarine which since the Renaissance has been considered the ultimate version of the colour. It is said to have almost ethereal properties that can at once inspire the viewer and conversely make them feel unnerved because, in its perfect form, the eye cannot properly focus on it. Klein’s blue is a blend of Ultramarine with a matte, synthetic resin that fixes the colour and keeps its intensity. It is economical, stable and reliable. Pure Lapis is notoriously expensive because being a deep-blue metamorphic rock it is mined from the mountains of Afghanistan. 

I was impressed by the thought of a perfect colour because it echoes Plato’s idea that everything has an archetype, a blueprint for all subsequent versions of it. IKB would be the quintessential example of this particular blue and give all painters that use it consistency. 

However, many art experts baulked at this. The American artist Andrew Wyeth, commented that one of the most powerful traits of natural Ultramarine is that it has grains of yellow in it and is a better medium to express naturalness in art. Nature, he argued, is beautiful because of its imperfections and constant state of flux.


Traditional painters also criticised what Klein named his Monochromes. These were large canvases with no designs or perspectives, but painted areas of blue. The pigment itself became the work of art as opposed to being a mere medium for another ‘picture’. Klein’s Nouveau Realism aimed to bring art and life closer and the fact that it caused much-heated debate suggests that he achieved this. After all, life is neither stable nor subject to all-round agreement.

I value Plato’s ideas on perfect forms. A sense of comfort is created when something tangible comes from something conceptual, it offers security and peace of mind.

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