The Truth Is Always Grey: A History of Modernist Painting
Why did many of the twentieth century’s best-known abstract painters often choose grey, frequently considered a noncolor and devoid of meaning? Frances Guerin argues that painters (including Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly, Agnes Martin, Brice Marden, Mark Rothko, and Gerhard Richter) select grey to respond to a key question of modernist art: What is painting?
By analyzing an array of modernist paintings, Guerin demonstrates that grey has a unique history and a legitimate identity as a color. She traces its use by painters as far back as medieval and Renaissance art, through Romanticism, to nineteenth- and twentieth-century modernism to show how grey is the perfect color to address the questions asked by painting within art history and to articulate the relationship between painting and the historical world of industrial modernity.
A work of exceptional erudition, breadth, and clarity, presenting an impressive range of canonical paintings across centuries as examples, The Truth Is Always Grey is a treatise on color that allows us to see something entirely new in familiar paintings and encourages our appreciation for the innovation and dynamism of the color grey.
Frances Guerin is senior lecturer in the School of Arts at the University of Kent. She is author of Through Amateur Eyes and A Culture of Light, both from University of Minnesota Press.