Color Icon: Yves Klein

Yves Klein

No color blog would be complete without a post on the great Yves Klein! Born in 1928 in Nice, France, to a pair of painters, Klein rose to prominence in the art world in the post-war era. He, along with art critic  Pierre Restany, founded the Nouveau réalisme movement which is seen as one of the major precursors to both Minimalism and Pop art. Impressive right? But behind the fancy art world credentials was an artist insatiably curious about color.

Monochrome bleu sans titre (IKB 128), 1960 (janvier), 40 x 25 cm

Klein’s most famous color explorations were termed the Blue Epoch. Large canvas’  were rolled with a rich  lapis lazulian hue. The color, which came to be known as International Klein Blue (or IKB), has been compared to the blue of medieval depictions of the Virgin Mary’s robes. He sealed his secret color recipe for safe keeping and as a record of the “authenticity of the pure idea.”

At his first show of these monochromatic paintings, which included not just blue but red, yellow, orange and pink paintings as well, audiences, to Kleins great dislike, took his painting as brightly colored interior design. This reaction lead him to throw out the other colors and exhibit paintings in only his signature blue.

Anthropométrie de l’époque bleue (ANT 82), 1960, 156,5 x 282,5 cm.

The  famous blue, which was co-developed by Klein and Rhône Poulenc a french pharmaceutical company, was tailored to look as bright and high chroma as dry pigment. With his signature color settled he experimented with various methods of applying the paint. He stared with rollers, focusing on evenness and distribution but soon played with sponges, fingers, and even women’s bodies as “living brushes.”

Grande Anthropophagie bleue Hommage à Tennessee Williams (ANT 76), 1960, 275 x 407 cm.

Color wasn’t the only thing Klein explored. His performance art and photography all drove the art world in new directions. There is so much more to learn about this icon in the history of color, read on!

All images via the Yves Klein Archive.

Architecting Color: Emmanuelle Moureaux

© Emmanuelle Moureaux

This week we want to introduce you to a fantastic architect with a commitment to color. Emmanuelle Moureaux, a French native living and working in Tokyo since 1996, is an architect and designer with a passion for color. Her work takes color seriously as an integral part of spaces and buildings not as an  after thought.

The driving ethos of her studio is shikiri, a made-up word meaning “to divide space using colors.” Her goal is to use color to deepen and enrich simple spaces, to “use colors as three-dimensional elements, like layers, in order to create spaces, not as a finishing touch applied to surfaces.”

© Emmanuelle Moureaux


Her intimate understanding of color is clear in her work, like this project the Kyoto University Hospital Clinical Research Center. Using color combinations the resemble landscapes she brings soothing natural influences to a space that might otherwise be teeming with stress or fear, neither of which contribute to good healing outcomes for patients. Her use of color is not limited to bright saturated colors as neutrals also feature prominently in her designs. 

This calming yet professional exam room is a great example of the power of white and neutrals paired with one dot of color. The warm beige, blonde wood, and white stripes extract this medical setting from the realm of the clinical and make it instead a  gentle, welcoming space.

© Emmanuelle Moureaux

Moureaux’s latest project was a colorful space for this years Shinjuku Creators Festa in Japan.  The project was inspired by the  traditional Japanese sliding screen

© Daisuke Shima / Nacasa & Partners

Dividing space in architecture often focuses on slicing vertically using walls, dividers, and pathways, but here Moureaux counter-intuitively enlivens the space by bringing the ceiling down to head height. Her dividing of the space applied horizontally compresses the open air to a sliver of space along the floor. The experience is cave like but offers a rippling growth of color overhead. Her work is a rich exploration of the importance of integrating color directly with shape in architectural environments and a real treat for all  of us who love color.