Blue Painting, Vassily Kandinsky, 1924
From The Smart Set:
Blue is often associated with coldness, even sadness. But how could this possibly explain why blue is such a well-loved color — perhaps even the most popular one? Even scientists haven’t come up with a satisfactory answer. On Being Blue, an intimidatingly beautiful 1976 essay by William Gass (which discusses the remaining 99 percent of all possible blue things not mentioned here) reminded me that in German we have the idiom “ins Blaue hinein” — “into the blue” — which expresses the idea that something we might undertake is indefinite, spontaneous, with an undetermined outcome. Something done into the blue doesn’t even necessitate preparation. Or it normally does, and we just more or less consciously decide to overlook this fact. It’s an approach I prefer over more “rational” ones, if only because it makes a welcome surprise more likely. But I hope I never fall prey to the “blue disease,” which I also first heard about by reading Gass — and which further research revealed to be “a bluish-purple discoloration of skin and mucous membranes usually resulting from a deficiency of oxygen in the blood.” Let’s write an encyclopedia of things blue.
Johann Wolfgang Goethe, the great German poet-philosopher who couldn’t help also being a natural historian, reminds us in his (otherwise debatable) Theory of Colors (1810) that “the highest is to understand that all fact is really theory. The blue of the sky reveals to us the basic law of color. Search nothing beyond the phenomena, they themselves are the theory.” The phenomenological semiotician is left with his own observations. How about the limitations of blue?