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The Alchemy of Colour

Poisonous paints, blackened bones, and beetles steeped in booze. Discover the strange and curious recipes that artists used to create some of history’s most vivid colours in our latest exhibition.

15 March to 27 August 2018

Throughout the ages, artists experimented with intriguing ingredients to concoct their colours. Often they turned to nature in their pursuit for the perfect pigment.

Gorgeous yellows were cooked up from the stinking urine of cows, tree growths dissolved in acid made inky blacks, and precious stones were crushed up into vibrant shades of blue.

The Alchemy of Colour uncovers the bizarre stories behind artists’ palettes through a display of some of the most striking manuscripts in our collection. An exhibition full of surprises, immerse yourself in a history of colour that’s as remarkable in its inventiveness as it is in its beauty.

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Explore The John Rylands Library Special Collections Blog for a unique view from behind the scenes of the exhibition.