The interdisciplinary essays in the book, edited by Dr Ribeyrol and published by Peter Lang Oxford, focus on the complex reception of the colours of the past in the works of major Victorian writers and artists. The contributors draw on close analyses of artworks and literary texts to explore the chromatic nostalgia of the Victorians, as well as the contrast between ancient colouring practices and the new sciences and techniques of colour.
Stefano Evangelista, Fellow and Tutor in English, is one of the contributors; he explores the relation between Lafcadio Hearn’s (1850-1904) literary use of blue in his descriptions of Japan and the material history of this colour in Japanese painting.
The experience of colour underwent a significant change in the second half of the nineteenth century, as new coal tar-based synthetic dyes were devised for the expanding textile industry. These new, artificial colours were often despised in artistic circles which favoured ancient and more authentic forms of polychromy, whether antique, medieval, Renaissance or Japanese. However faded, ancient hues were embraced as rich, chromatic alternatives to the bleakness of industrial modernity, fostering fantasized recreations of an idealized past.
Posted: 2 November 2016