I am fascinated by the colour blue; cerulean, cobalt, ultramarine, indigo. A pure blue pigment, cerulean blue is opaque and bright due to its highly refractive particles. It is stable and does not react to light or chemicals, making it a permanent and invaluable part of an artist’s palette. The word cerulean is derived from the Latin caeruleus, meaning heaven or sky.
An inorganic synthetic pigment
Cobalt blue was discovered by the French chemist Louis Jacques Thénard in 1802. Three years later, Swiss chemist Albrecht Höpfner created cerulean blue from cobalt stannate. An inorganic synthetic mineral pigment, it is made by the calcination of tin, salts and silica with cobalt sulphate. Although created in 1805, it wasn’t until 55 years later that the colour became widely available to artists. In the 1860s, it was introduced under the trade name coeruleum.
Cerulean blue was quickly adopted by artists, including the Impressionists and was particularly useful for painting skyscapes. Monet used it in his 1877 ‘La Gare Saint-Lazare’. The pointillism of Paul Signac and Édouard Manet used the same in his 1878 ‘Corner of a Café-Concert’.
Colour of the millennium
Cerulean blue was nominated by Pantone as the colour of the millennium in 1999. According to Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Colour Institute, “Psychologically, gazing at a blue sky brings a sense of peace and tranquillity to the human spirit. Sky blue is imprinted in our psyches as a retiring, quiescent colour. Surrounding yourself with cerulean blue could bring on a certain peace because it reminds you of time spent outdoors such as on a beach, or near the water. It is associated with restful, peaceful, relaxing times.”
Cerulean blue pigment is expensive and it remains as popular now as it was when it was first introduced. I, for one, am totally enamoured by this particular shade of blue and use it liberally in my art work as well as interiors.