A History of Art in Three Colours


Series 1 - Episode 2 Blue



As he continues his mission to demonstrate how colours represent more than mere decoration, art historian James Fox selects one from his palette that is all around but forever out of reach: blue.

Surprisingly, he reveals that blue hardly exists in the early history of art - the ancient Greeks didn’t even have a word for it. But that changed around 1,000 years ago with the arrival in Venice of the vivid blue precious stone lapis lazuli. Fox’s journey really starts here, as he details how blue went from representing heaven under Vatican rule to being an outlet for Picasso’s despair. But the most revolutionary change to the way we view blue came not from an artist but from a jet test pilot, Major General Bill Anders, who took the famous photograph of our blue planet while on the Apollo 8 mission in 1968.

Fox recounts all this with a passion and enthusiasm that are hard to resist,
and the sublime art is matched by some equally stunning photography -
this is how all documentaries should be made.


Art historian James Fox turns his attention to blue, examining how the colour was originally created from lapis lazuli, an imported precious stone found in the East, and that the bright paint it produced captivated artists in the Middle Ages. He explores the renowned Florentine painter Giotto's ground-breaking religious frescoes in the Arena Chapel in Padua, and charts how the colour has also helped painters from more recent times, including Gaugin, Van Gogh and Picasso, to depict emotional depth.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Dr James Fox
Director Matt Hill
Executive Producer Jonty Claypole
Producer Matt Hill