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The Truth Is Always Grey

A History of Modernist Painting

2018
Author:

Frances Guerin

The Truth Is Always Grey

Changing how we look at and think about the color grey

Frances Guerin argues that painters select grey to respond to a key question of modernist art: What is painting? Presenting an impressive range of canonical paintings across centuries, this book is a treatise on color that allows us to see something entirely new in familiar paintings and encourages our appreciation for the innovation and dynamism of the color grey.

The Truth Is Always Grey is a work of exceptional erudition, breadth, and clarity. The range and force of Frances Guerin's examples are truly impressive, showing how attention to one color alone allows us to see relations between bodies of work across period and nation in unexpected ways.

Brian Price, author of Neither God nor Master: Robert Bresson and Radical Politics

Why did many of the twentieth century’s best-known abstract painters often choose grey, frequently considered a noncolor and devoid of meaning? Frances Guerin argues that painters (including Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly, Agnes Martin, Brice Marden, Mark Rothko, and Gerhard Richter) select grey to respond to a key question of modernist art: What is painting?

By analyzing an array of modernist paintings, Guerin demonstrates that grey has a unique history and a legitimate identity as a color. She traces its use by painters as far back as medieval and Renaissance art, through Romanticism, to nineteenth- and twentieth-century modernism to show how grey is the perfect color to address the questions asked by painting within art history and to articulate the relationship between painting and the historical world of industrial modernity.

A work of exceptional erudition, breadth, and clarity, presenting an impressive range of canonical paintings across centuries as examples, The Truth Is Always Grey is a treatise on color that allows us to see something entirely new in familiar paintings and encourages our appreciation for the innovation and dynamism of the color grey.

The Truth Is Always Grey

Frances Guerin is senior lecturer in the School of Arts at the University of Kent. She is author of Through Amateur Eyes and A Culture of Light, both from University of Minnesota Press.

The Truth Is Always Grey

The Truth Is Always Grey is a work of exceptional erudition, breadth, and clarity. The range and force of Frances Guerin's examples are truly impressive, showing how attention to one color alone allows us to see relations between bodies of work across period and nation in unexpected ways.

Brian Price, author of Neither God nor Master: Robert Bresson and Radical Politics

Frances Guerin's discussion of grey in modern European and American abstract painting is extensive, original, and grafted on alternative critical opinions. She has done a magisterial job in selecting and combining a variety of points of views on grey as a color of major significance, in its own right, throughout the history of art.

Angela Dalle Vacche, Georgia Institute of Technology

In this timely book Frances Guerin addresses the central but neglected subject of grey in painting. Both material and philosophical in her analysis, she gives us a well researched, vibrant, and thoroughly engaging reconsideration of that widely underestimated color.

Anthea Callen, author of The Work of Art

The Truth Is Always Grey

Contents
Introduction: The Color Grey
1. What Is Grey Painting? Tracing a Historical Trajectory
2. Visualizing Modern Life: Photography’s Influence on Nineteenth-Century Grey Painting
3. Grey Abstraction: Form and Function in American Postwar Painting
4. Beyond Modernist Abstraction: The Social Significance of Grey Painting 
5. Reinvention and Perpetuation: The Possibility of Grey for Gerhard Richter
Epilogue: The Irresolution of Grey
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index