About: Alan Hess

Alan Hess is an architect and author of 19 books on Southern California and Modern architecture, including Oscar Niemeyer Houses and Googie Redux: Ultramodern Roadside Architecture. He wrote this for Zócalo Public Square.

Posts by Alan

Posted in Architecture and Design

Long Live Tiki, the Whimsical Soul of Midcentury Modern

3505 Artesia Blvd. in Some Los Angeles Apartments / Ed Ruscha
© Ed Ruscha

Tiki is the style that refuses to die, and its endurance tells us something about Southern California design. More»

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      gettypubs:

      COBALT

      The histories of many colors are amazing, but cobalt may well have the most brilliant of them all. From the Ming Dynasty to Renaissance Italy, cobalt was a popular glaze for porcelain and other ceramics. Cobalt ink is invisible unless exposed to flame, which turns it a vivid green. In the 17th century, this quality made Europeans believe it was witchcraft, but decades later it was used as a neat trick on fire screens. It wasn’t until 1802 that painters added cobalt to their palette. 

      It is this little tidbit from cobalt’s history that saved master forger Han van Meergeren’s skin after WWII, when he was tried for collaborating with the Nazis. Want to find out how some art history sleuthing and smart science got him a not guilty verdict? Hint: Don’t try to forge a Vermeer with cobalt! 

      Read all about it in The Brilliant History of Color in Art!

      Images, clockwise:

      Glazed earthenware dish with a marchant ship, Italy, about 1510. 

      Glazed earthenware tile floor, Spain, about 1425-50.

      Porcelain lidded vase, China, about 1662-1772.

      All objects from the J. Paul Getty Museum. 

      12/18/14

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