Greg Mason Burns

A History of the Color Blue

History of the color blue
History of the Color Blue – Cidade à Noite – Guido Viaro Museum


As a painter I have been fascinated by the history of the color blue. I’m certainly not alone. Picasso is probably the most famous of the past 100 years to have produced a significant blue period, so to speak. Of course, as was Yves Klein. In my paintings, since I really am completely self-taught and really only inspired by those who create what I have no interest in creating, none of these blue periods or obsessions have influenced me. My own blues come from my own tastes.

I’m not really sure why this is so. I grew up on an island, so maybe that’s it. But even then the sea where I’m from is so cold and dark that on many days it’s more of a green and black than it is a blue. I also have blue eyes, but I’ve never been the one to wear blue clothes to make this stand out. While I do like having blue eyes, their sensitivity has burdened me more with severe headaches during periods of uneven light. This is particularly true in the spring or fall when the angle of the sun is such that I can’t avoid squinting. I like blue, but I like other colors, too.

history of the color blue
History of the Color Blue – Winter Night

Blue vs. Other Colors

What stands out to me the most is the fact that I paint often with very bright and stark color differences (Artist’s Delight – see below). I’m not one to blend much, so my colors tend to contrast each other in ways that make me feel I am living in a new world. But blue – it’s the one color that just comes naturally to me. It’s the one color that, when I paint only with blue (accented with whites), that just works.

When I did a series of one-color still life paintings (see below) it was the blue that came out right the first time, and stood out as the strong of all six. Even the pink, which competes as the strongest along with the blue, was initially meant to be red based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how red and white come together. The blue came out as planned, or maybe as dreamed or wished or loved or lived. The pink was a mistake.

BBC Documentary of the History of the Color Blue


Artist’s Delight