Laura Kalba

Jun 14, 2018

Color in the Age of Impressionism

Commerce, Technology, and Art

Penn State University Press 2018

purchase at When you imagine the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century, what colors do you see? Whatever comes to mind, Laura Kalba’s, Color in the Age of Impressionism: Commerce, Technology, and Art (Penn State University Press, 2018) will change the way you think about the contents, forms, and significance of the palette of this critical moment in the history of modernity. Examining the impact of emergent color technologies on French visual culture and landscapes, Color in the Age of Impressionism includes, but moves beyond, a discussion of the works and colors of Impressionist artists to consider color theory, dye manufacture, flower cultivation and gardening culture, fireworks, chromolithographic reproduction and collecting, autochromes and neo-Impressionism. Along the way, this is a history of aesthetics, art, fashion, technical innovation, and the modern markets of hue, tone, contrast, harmony, and shade during the “color revolution” of the decades Kalba explores. Approaching the history of color in the period with the archival passion and conceptual tools of the historian of visual culture, the book pushes past the discussion and prescription of taste to delve deeper into the social, economic, technological, political, and cultural history of color in a France in the throes of the emergence of a consumer and capitalist society divided by class and other differences. A “bottom-up” history of color, Color in the Age of Impressionism takes seriously the question: How did ordinary French men and women understand realism, abstraction, and fantasy during the decades of the emergence of a modernity that included a spectrum of visuality, imagination, and techniques of representation? A winner of The College Art Association's 2018 Charles Rufus Morey Book Award, the study will be of great interest to anyone fascinated by the histories of art, looking, spectacle, culture, and everyday life in France in the decades before and after the fin-de-siècle.
Roxanne Panchasi is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Simon Fraser University. Her current research focuses on the representation of nuclear weapons and testing in France and its empire since 1945. She lives and reads in Vancouver, Canada. If you have a recent title to suggest for the podcast, please send an email to: *The music that opens and closes the podcast is an instrumental version of “Creatures,” a song written by Vancouver artist/musician Casey Wei (performing as “hazy”). To hear more, please visit

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Roxanne Panchasi

Roxanne Panchasi is an Associate Professor of History at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada who specializes in twentieth and twenty-first century France and empire.She is the founding host of New Books in French Studies, a channel launched in 2013.

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