Blue Is The New Orange. Here Are 28 Gorgeous Examples Of The Pigment's Place In Art History

04/15/2015 09:20 am ET | Updated Apr 15, 2015

Pablo Picasso. Mary Cassatt. Yves Klein. Georgia O'Keeffe.

This is just a handful of the many 20th century artists who've dipped their brush in a pool of blue pigment. From Picasso's much-studied "Blue Period" to Klein's invention of IKB (International Klein Blue), painters in particular seemed to have gone bananas -- or maybe blueberries? -- over the cool color choice.


However, according to Swiss Ph.D. student Martin Bellander, the rampant use of the color blue -- whether it's lapis or indigo or cerulean -- is actually a pretty recent trend. In a data analysis project posted online, Bellander surveyed around 94,526 paintings made between 1800 and 2000 and found that, in fact, our obsession with blue has been increasing over the past several decades. While orange was the reigning hue of the 19th century, blue tones have been steadily dominating painters' palettes since World War I.

The the details of Bellander's analysis make it east to geek out. He explains from where he pulled his population of paintings (BBC, Google Art Project, Wikipedia) and how he sorted their respective colors (he focused on a random set of 100 pixels from each image). He also gives his two cents on why artists love blue more than ever (resins have aged and changed over time and the price of blue paint has decreased). While his study is by no means comprehensive, he provides an easily understood visualization of blue's growing power -- not to mention a good pun.

Business Insider did a good job of pointing out earlier this year that blue has had a relatively short history of existence. In honor of the color's growing importance in art, we've put together a list of our favorite blue paintings (and a few prints) in 19th and 20th century art history:

  • Katsushika Hokusai's "The Great Wave off Kanagawa"
    Katsushika Hokusai, "The Great Wave off Kanagawa," 1829-32 (color woodcut)
  • Edward Degas' "Au Café-Concert"
    Edward Degas, "Au Café-Concert," 1875-77
  • James Abbott McNeill Whistler's "Nocturne"
    James Abbott McNeill Whistler, "Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge," 1872
  • Berthe Morisot's "The Cradle"
    Berthe Morisot, "The Cradle," 1872
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir's "Two Sisters"
    Pierre-Auguste Renoir, "Two Sisters," 1881
  • Vincent van Gogh's "Starry Night"
    Vincent van Gogh, "Starry Night," 1889
  • Mary Cassatt's "The Boating Part"
    Mary Cassatt, "The Boating Party," 1893–94
  • Henri Rousseau's "Sleeping Gypsy"
    Henri Rousseau, "Sleeping Gypsy," 1897
  • Pablo Picasso's "Blue Room"
    (AP Photo/The Phillips Collection)
    Pablo Picasso, "The Blue Room," 1901
  • Gustav Klimt's "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II"
    (AP Photo/ Christie's)
    Gustav Klimt, "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II," 1912
  • Claude Monet's "Water Lillies"
    Claude Monet, "Water Lilies," c. 1915
  • Egon Schiele's "Sitzende Frau Mit Violetten Strumpfen"
    (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
    Egon Schiele, "Sitzende Frau Mit Violetten Strumpfen," 1917 (gouache and black crayon on paper)
  • Salvador Dali's "Le Grand Masturbateur"
    (AP Photo/Francois Mori) PRESS
    Salvador Dali, "Le Grand Masturbateur," 1929
  • Georgia O'Keeffe's "Deer's Skull with Pedernal"
    (AP Photo/Keystone, Eddy Risch) PRESS
    Georgia O'Keeffe, "Deer's Skull with Pedernal,"1936
  • Henri Matisse's "Blue Nude III"
    (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
    Henri Matisse, "Blue Nude III," 1952 (gouache-painted paper cut-outs)
  • Mark Rothko's "Untitled (Yellow and Blue)"
    (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
    Mark Rothko, "Untitled (Yellow and Blue)," 1955
  • Barnett Newman's "Onement VI"
    (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
    Barnett Newman, "Onement VI," 1953
  • Yve Klein's International Klein Blue
    Yves Klein, "Blue, pink, gold and the plenitude of things," detail (Klein registered the color IKB in 1960)
  • Roy Lichtenstein's "Look Mickey"
    (AP Photo/Courtesy the Estate of Roy Lichtenstein via The Art Institute of Chicago)
    Roy Lichtenstein, "Look Mickey," 1961
  • Joan Miro's "Blue II"
    (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
    Joan Miro, "Blue II," 1961
  • Andy Warhol's "Flowers"
    (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
    Andy Warhol, "Flowers," 1964 (acrylic, silkscreen ink, and pencil on linen)
  • On Kawara's Date Paintings
    Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London
    On Kawara, “New York’s traffic strike," 1966 (on view at the Guggenheim now)
  • David Hockney's "Splash"
    (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)
    David Hockney, "Splash," 1966
  • Jean-Michel Basquiat's "Blue Airplane"
    (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images)
    Jean-Michel Basquiat, "Blue Airplane," 1981
  • Francis Baon's "Three studies for a portrait of John Edwards"
    (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
    Francis Bacon, "Three studies for a portrait of John Edwards," 1984
  • Keith Haring's "The 10 Commandments"
    Keith Haring, "The 10 Commandments," 1985
  • Ellsworth Kelly's "Blue Curves in Relief"
    (Photo by Elisabetta Villa/Getty Images)
    Ellsworth Kelly, "Blue Curves in Relief," 2009
  • BONUS: Kehinde Wiley's portrait of Salt N Pepa
    (Photo by Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images)
    Kehinde Wiley, "Salt N Pepa," 2005.

    Orange and blue coexist.

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