Colourful Discoveries — exploring Newcastle’s museum collections through colour: Green
by Helen Vasey, Assistant Keeper of History, Discovery Museum
Each week we will focus on a different colour linked to our new Google Arts & Culture online exhibition. This week we’re looking into the colour green.
Green was a tricky pigment to create as dyes created from plants turn brown quickly. The Egyptians tried the mineral Malachite but it was expensive and sometimes turned black. The Romans soaked copper plates in wine, creating verdigris, a pigment that they then used to dye mosaics and stained glass.
In 1775 the chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele invented a bright green pigment. People loved the colour and used it in clothes and wallpapers, despite the fact that it had arsenic in it, which is toxic and dangerous to people in large quantities.
The green-eyed monster? Shakespeare made it the colour of jealousy when he coined the phrase ‘green-eyed monster’. It is also associated with illness and poison, and people are described as going green when they feel unwell. The supernatural has links with the colour green too: the witch’s skin in the ‘Wizard of Oz’ is green and aliens are often depicted as ‘green men from outer space’. However, it is also seen as a calming colour. In many countries it means it’s safe to proceed, ‘given the green light’.
Going green — and, because it is the colour of nature, it has come to represent being environmentally conscious.
If you would like to delve deeper into Discovery’s colourful collections, you can explore the online exhibition here.