The Blue Bias

“For me, each nuance of a color is in some way an individual, a being who is not only from the same race as the base color, but who definitely possesses a distinct character and personal soul.” Yves Klein

It’s hard to imagine a career based upon the use of a single colour but that’s exactly what French artist, Yves Klein, did. In response to what Klein said was a complete misinterpretation to an exhibition that explored a range of monochrome textures, and thus began an era in his art that focused on the exploration of one colour only – blue.

This era, known as the Blue Epoch, was to become Klein’s legacy to the art world. Not only did it revel in going against the established notions of art and practice, but it was also the setting for the creation of Yves Klein Blue, or as he called it, “IKB” International Klein Blue. For an exhibition held in Milan, Klein – with the aid of friend and paint dealer Edouard Adam – created a unique ultramarine pigment that resembled the bright blue once created by crushed lapis lazuli in religious iconography.

This bright, almost electric, blue was created through suspending the ultramarine pigment in a synthetic resin known as Rhodopas, or what Klein was to call “The Medium”. This allowed the pigment to retain its natural brilliance that, when used in traditional linseed oils, would often be rendered dull. For the exhibition, Klein applied the paint in a thick, layered technique across eleven canvases that surrounded the viewer in a sea of bright, iridescent blues. To promote the exhibition, Klein released 1001 blue balloons and sent out postcards with stamps of IKB attached that he had bribed the local post office to accept as legitimate. That is colour dedication right there!

Klein went about applying this blue to various approaches to art – appropriating mass-produced recreations of famous sculptures, he painted them with his shade of blue and turned them into something rather alien and uncanny. He painted the bodies of women who then rolled themselves across large sheets of canvas and paper laid out on the floor – capturing their curves and motion in an electric, vivid blue process of movement.

For us, that something as simple as the colour blue could be used to revolutionise the art world is incredibly inspiring. We particularly appreciate Klein’s obsession with the impact of colour and the idea that colour can still be an area for the development of groundbreaking ideas.


Image 1, Yves Klein, 1961. Yves Klein Archives. Photo by Charles Wilp.
Image 3, With the Void, Full Powers at The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Image 4, Venus Bleue, Yves Klein.
Image 5, 1001 Blue Balloons Release. Vincen T