"A Color Finally Captured"
I've been reading all week
about the new YInMn Blue,
a crystalline blend of yttrium,
indium and manganese.
This pigment doesn't fade
in oil or water, hasn't got
toxic ingredients, isn't
too difficult to make --
not cheap either,
given the rare earth
that it contains.
The human search for
perfect pigments is as old as
art itself, red and yellow ochres
smudged on cave walls and
lined with charcoal.
Wars have been waged
over pigments and paints,
fortunes made or lost.
We learned to produce
complex chemical reactions
to catch the elusive blues
and aloof violets with
woad and indigo.
YInMn is one of them,
an intricate blend that turns
from brown to brilliant blue like
the flash of a morpho's wings,
its appearance as unexpected
as it is splendid.
The hue is deep and sweet,
and I couldn't help thinking that
I'd seen it somewhere before.
Then I remembered a summer visit
to Yellowstone National Park, and
the hot springs opening their throats
like boiling morning glories.
No matter what I tried,
I could never catch it on film,
that precise shade of jeweled blue
they held like sapphires
forever out of reach.
The plein air artists
voiced the selfsame plaint.
If you think you've seen the colors,
you haven't, not quite, unless
you've been there yourself --
and if you have, you're probably nodding.
There's something in the springs that
camera and paint just couldn't pull
out of the thin shimmering air.
But I look at the picture of YInMn Blue
and even in dim facsimile I'm thinking
that's it, that's the tint I remember,
a color finally captured like
a butterfly in a net.
* * *
YInMn Blue is a new pigment suitable for coloring multiple materials.
The history of pigments is long and convoluted. Some have been found and lost. Some have even started wars.
The blue morpho is a butterfly whose wings flash iridescent blue in the light -- although they're actually brown, as you can see at different angles.
The hot springs of Yellowstone National Park are nortoriously difficult to photograph. This set of photos shows an unusually good capture of the blue but also some others showing the typical fade.
Plein air means doing art outdoors, such as painting or sketching. Yellowstone is a popular place for this activity, which by the way is one reason we need these big public parks.