Chromorama: How Colour Changed Our Way of Seeing by Riccardo Falcinelli (Translated from Italian by Simon Carnell & Erica Segre) - review by Will Wiles

Will Wiles

More Than Meets the Eye

Chromorama: How Colour Changed Our Way of Seeing

By

Particular Books 480pp £22
 

Some years ago, researching an essay about the difficulties of reproducing ‘natural’ light, I came across a book called Light and Color in the Outdoors by Marcel Minnaert. An obscure treatise on optics written in the 1930s by a Belgian astronomer, it wasn’t promising. A couple of hours later, I stumbled from the library a completely changed man. Shadows were not the colour I thought they were. Sunlight dappling through leaves, reflections in windows – everything was different.

I mention this to explain that I approached Riccardo Falcinelli’s Chromorama with very high expectations. Falcinelli is an esteemed graphic designer and the book has been a success in Italy; it covers a rich subject, familiar to all but so little understood outside a few specialisms that it has endless capacity to surprise.

Sure enough, Chromorama delivers a drubbing to many preconceptions. Did you know that there’s no colour brown? What we think of as brown is ‘ultimately nothing more than a yellow seen next to surfaces that are brighter than it is’. Red is also a fiction of sorts: carmine,

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