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A History of Art in Three Colours

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S1-E3 White

S1-E3 White

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The history of white is a fascinating and controversial tale. In his concluding documentary James Fox’s core question is how the notion that all of antiquity was clad in white came to prominence.

The blame appears to lie with a flamboyant German Johann Joachim Winckelmann, who in the 18th century promoted ideas about the virtues of white in classical art. Fox also pulls in Duchamp, Whistler, Le Courbusier and Mussolini to show how those virtues were corrupted into something darker.


Art historian James Fox concludes his examination of the three colours he considers most important to human history by arguing that white, traditionally a symbol of virtue and purity, was warped into a shade that exposed the darkest human instincts. He explores why the colour fascinated 18th-century potter Josiah Wedgwood and art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann, and examines how in the 20th century it came to be linked with the Italian dictator Mussolini and fascism. Last in the series.

Cast & Crew

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


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