“…le gris est la couleur de la vérité…”

In 1893, Stuart Henry published an essay of art criticism in The Contemporary Review, including these words:

“The favourite colour in the French school of painting is gray, or, to speak paradoxically, the absence of colour….For, to the French, gray is the colour of truth, ideality, and life itself.”

The following month a writer in the French journal Revue Bleue noticed the article in The Contemporary Review and translated some of the text as follows:

“La couleur préférée des peintres français est le gris, ou, pour dire un paradoxe l’absence de couleur…Pour les Français, le gris est la couleur de la vérité, de l’idéalité, de la vie même.”

At London’s Hayward Gallery, a major retrospective exhibition devoted to the work of celebrated British artist Bridget Riley continues until 26th January, 2020. She wrote in At the End of My Pencil, in the London Review of Books of 8/10/09:

“…For instance, in 1962, when I tried to introduce a third colour into the Black and White paintings, I soon realised that this was impossible because there was ‘no place’ for a third colour. I had come up against a problem that would in the past have been called ‘plastic’. The structure I was working with was binary and that had to be broken down or opened up if it was going to include a third factor. I did this by ‘pacing grey’, approaching grey simply as a different kind of unit. What is grey? It lies between black and white. It can be a single, central grey, or it can move in steps or modulations of grey.

This fluidity of grey movements and its capacity to bridge the light/dark contrast allowed me to keep a door open for colour. I had to work through the Black and White paintings before I could even begin to think about possibilities of colour. There are no short cuts. I had to go step by step, testing the ground before making a move. It would be a long time before I felt ready to leave the support of the greys for full colour…”.

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