About A Colour

Yves Klein Blue

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Posted by Cat How, December 9, 2017

Yves Klein was a French artist considered an important figure in post-war European art. He was a leading member of the French artistic movement of ‘Nouveau Realisme’ but is perhaps most famous for his signature blue – also known as International Klein Blue (IKB).

IKB was a distinctive ultramarine which Klein registered as a trademark colour in 1957. He considered this colour to have a quality close to pure space and associated it with immaterial values beyond what can be seen or touched.

Hey Studio reference IKB in work for Arrels

Klein began making monochromes in 1947, considering them to be a way of rejecting the idea of representation in painting and therefore of attaining creative freedom. Although it is difficult to date many of these works precisely as they all were untitled when he made them (and were only titled by his widow after his death) – the early ones have an uneven surface, whereas later ones, are finer and more uniform in texture.

Untitled Blue Monochrome, 1959 by Yves Klein

Klein used an ultramarine pigment suspended in a synthetic resin called ‘Rhodopas’, described by Klein as ‘The Medium’. Discovered with the help of Edouard Adam (a Parisian paint dealer) the optical effect retained the brilliance of the pigment which, when suspended in linseed oil, tended to become dull. Klein later trademarked (“soleau enveloped”) this recipe to maintain the ‘authenticity of the pure idea’ and went on to attach his monochrome paintings to poles placed 20 cm away from the walls to increase their spatial ambiguities.

Klein’s signature blue was a key influence in Céline’s S/S17 show, and a major retrospective of his work was recently on display at Tate Liverpool. We’ve found flashes of it in work by Hey Studio for Arrels as well as Les Graphiquants and myriad other places in print and online.  This colour is deep and mesmerising, and we will never tire of finding it truly captivating…

Typography by French designers, Les Graphiquants