Analog blue of the digital age: YInMn Blue — #MasBlue — #MoreBlue
Pretty cool discovery of a “new color” by Mas Subramanian’s team at Oregon State University’s Department of Chemistry! While happened upon seven years ago, it’s just recently come to market through the Shepherd Color Company and has hit the news. “It was serendipity, actually; a happy, accidental discovery,” says Subramanian. Chemical theory did not predict that such a structure would generate intense colors, he notes.
This serendipity coexists with and is tightly connected to today’s digital world; YInMn Blue couldn’t have sprung up in an earlier age. It was the search for new semiconductors, materials with magnetic properties to use in computer hard drives, that set the stage. So in a way, we could call this an analog blue of the digital age.
And while Portland OR painters are working with the pigment, I think the crystal structure called “trigonal-bipyramidal coordination” is perhaps the most beautiful artwork.
Blues have a tough time in the plant world. There are very few real blue flowers. I’ve always joked that it was because they didn’t want to compete with the blue sky. But in fact, David Lee, former professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Florida International University, writes that “There is no true blue pigment in plants, so plants don’t have a direct way of making a blue color… [and] Blue is even more rare in foliage than it is in flowers.”
And blues have had a tough time through history. Toxicity and fading have plagued blue pigments.
Egyptians were using calcium copper silicate as early as 2500 BC and Egyptian Blue is considered the first synthetic pigment. Semi-precious lapis lazuli stone from Afghanistan and Pakistan was ground by painters and workmen through the Renaissance in a dangerous profession. Indigo blue pigment didn’t hold up.
Synthetic blues of late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries include Prussian blue, cobalt blue and French ultramarine into the period of Impressionism. Prussian Blue was also discovered by accident. These pigments led to changes in Euroopen painting as curated in a 2016 Norton Simon Museum exhibit titled A Revolution of the Palette: The First Synthetic Blue Pigments and Their Impact on French Artists/ When French painters combined pink with these new blues, they were able to take the (white European) fleshtones to amazing reality. Pantone’s 2016 colors of the year coincidentally echo that combination with a pink Rose Quartz and light blue Serenity.
Moving to Latin America, Frida Kahlo had a pretty crazy Blue House painted in — what else?! — Frida Kahlo blue. Apparently fellow Angelinos drive to Tijuana to buy it from Comex. Beautiful. Toxic? And the Mayas had an amazine sky blue Maya Blue that was almost impervious to age, acid, weather and modern solvents.
Is it pronounced YinMin? Many older languages don’t distinguish between between green and blue. Some say it was lack of a word for blue that prevented people from seeing it. That sounds backward and I wonder if color perception is increasing with evolution?
Nature’s Palette: The Science of Plant Color, by David Lee
ps. All scientific & historical errors are mine!