July is Pride Month and as strong allies, the CBUAG is launching a brand new column here on our blog where, for the next 6 weeks, we will be bringing you fun facts about each colour in the pride rainbow! These facts can be anything from their symbolism to their origin in paint production. Stay tuned to learn all about the colours: RED, ORANGE, YELLOW, GREEN, BLUE, PURPLE. This week we are going to look at BLUE and its place in history.
Here are 7 interesting facts about the first colour of the Pride Rainbow, BLUE.
1. Expressions and Symbolism
In English, saying someone looks like a colour can have a lot of meaning. Green can be envious or sick, red can be enraged, and BLUE means sad or down. BLUE means very different things across the world, however. In Germany if you say someone looks BLUE, you’re saying that they are drunk. “This derives from the ancient use of urine (which is produced copiously by the human body after drinking alcohol) in dyeing cloth blue with woad or indigo.”
Colours can often be iconic. Red carpets are used at high profile events. Orange is used for warnings and safety signs. In Ancient Rome, public servants wore the colour blue. This has inspired the colour choice of uniforms in contemporary society. Police officers, for example, often wear the colour blue and in the USA most mailboxes are coloured blue.
3. The Perfect BLUE
In 1961, Yves Klein (1928-1962) painted Blue Monochrome. Klein defined monochrome painting as an “open window to freedom as the possibility of being immersed in the immeasurable existence of color.” In order to achieve the perfect painting he created his own blue which is known now as “International Klein Blue” and used this pigment in order to evoke his “boundlessness vision of the world, being blue the color of infinity”.
4. Eye Colour and Pain
In a recent study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh, it was discovered that “Caucasian women with light-coloured eyes – blue or green – appear to tolerate pain and distress better than those with brown or hazel eyes.”* Though they had too small of a test group for this to hold any real weight, only 58 women, those with a lighter eye colour needed less pain medication during childbirth and had less stress after the fact.
Did you know that only 8% of the world’s population has blue eyes?
*Read more at the Daily Mail here.
5. Heavenly Connections
Mary is often depicted as wearing BLUE. This is perhaps what influenced the name of the pigment Cerulean BLUE which is a cobalt stannate which was created in the 1860s. It is often said that Mary wears this colour to connect her with the sky and heavenly bodies. BLUE being the colour of the sky and water therefore became a symbol of the connectivity of the mundane and the holy. It is no surprise, then, that Cerulean is derivative of the word “caelum” (latin) which means “heaven, atmosphere, or sky”.
6. Trick of the Eye
While most colours found in nature are due to pigment, most of the blue found in nature is not a pigment colour but a structural colour. This means that it isn’t the pigment that is BLUE but the way light refracts off of it that makes the pigment look BLUE.
Structural colors, produced by selective light reflection, are mostly the blues, greens and violets. Shimmering iridescent colors are produced when light bounces off the grooves and ridges on feathers. The distance between these surface irregularities influences which colors we see. These structural colors change with the angle of view. Most blue structural colors are produced when particles smaller than a light beam scatter light.
In bluejays, the color-producing units are found in feather barbs. These barbs use melanin to trap every colour of light except the BLUE which is refracted back. This means that these beautiful birds aren’t actually BLUE in pigment but a grey and it is only because of the way that the light bounces off their feathers that they don’t look grey.
People from Nova Scotia, where our very own CBU Art Gallery is located, are called Bluenosers. No one really knows why but there are many theories. Some people think it is because of the international fame of The Bluenose schooner but the nickname dates back long before the boat was built. Others believe it is due to the fishermen whose noses would turn BLUE in the frigid cold. If it wasn’t from the cold directly it could have been from their BLUE mittens which would leave a stain from the dye. The fishermen would rub their noses when they were cold or ran and a BLUE smudge would be left behind.
No matter what the reason, Nova Scotians are now proud to be Bluenosers.
Stay tuned next week for some interesting facts about the colour PURPLE!