16 SHADES OF BLUE

THE INSPIRATION

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An October morning in Paris presents him with a "completely supportless blue"; two days later, in front of the pictures in the Salon, he speaks of "the good conscience of these reds, these blues"; Thereupon while crossing the Place de la Concorde, the poet becomes aware of "an ocean of cold...barely blue"; while the houses in the backgroud loom in a "blue dove-grey". The obelisk, around whose granite there is always "a glimmering of blond old warmth holds an ancient Egyptian shadow-blue" in its heiroglyphic hollows...Intensity of perception increases, and with it the wealth of nuances in the experiencing of blue: a "self-contained blue" (in van Gogh) is joined by a "listening blue" and a "thunderstorm blue" in Cezanne, with "sky-blue" and "sea blue" as the only conventional mentions of the color. Until, in the end, in the second letter from Prague, a "bourgeois cotton blue" and a "light cloudy blueishness" evoke the whole scale of a color as it was painted by the artist and named by the poet: from a "densely quilted blue" through "waxy blue," "wet dark blue," "juicy blue" to that slope of curved hills in a van Gogh: "full of revolt, Blue, Blue, Blue."

"like a great thunderstorm"

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01/

Tori Amos and Rilke

Tori Amos and I turned 50 at about the same time a few years ago.  Her song '16 shades of blue' was inspired by this milestone birthday and a viewing of Cezanne's 'black clock' and digging deep into writings by Rainer Rilke on Cezanne where he, Rilke, describes 16 shades of blue.  It was this song in 2014 that originally got me thinking about blue musings and the associative meanings of color.

02/

Rilke on Cezanne

Long a fan of Rainer Rilke's poetry, his book 'Letters on Cezanne' explores art, creativity and seeing--particularly with regard to Cezanne's paintings.  In this writing Rilke uses unconventional descriptions of blue to speak to not only  Cezanne's work but also van Gogh's paintings and the city of Paris.

03/

Paula Modersohn-Becker

Paula was an artist who lived in Worpswede Germany and was also a friend/maybe lover of Rilke.  She saw Cezanne's work before Rilke and in a letter to him described her experience of Cezanne's paintings as 'like a great thunderstorm'

04/

Siri Hustvedt

Siri Hustvedt in her book 'mysteries of the rectangle' talks about blue as follows: blue's chromatic scale corresponds to an emotional spectrum of highly complex associations that move from the airy transparency linked with joy to the saturated depths we connect with sorrow.

05/

Sherwin Williams

Who hasn't been romanced by the poetic and descriptive names of paint colors.  The titles and colors of the 16 shades of blue are derived from Sherwin Williams paint chips, from Rainstorm to Respite.

    SHARON KINGSTON