Earlier this year I spent some time in Provence, France, particularly in the beautiful Luberon area. I stumbled on this delightful colour museum in the village of Roussillon in Vaucluse. As we approached Roussillon, the earth changed colour – shades of reddish brown and ochre for which this area is famous.
The Colour Museum is housed within the disused Mathieu Ochre Plant dating from 1921, but the industry in this area dates back to 1785 when ochre was first separated from sand. The old processing extractors, filtering baths, grinding sheds and packing rooms are all intact and give an insight into what is involved in turning chunks of ochre coloured earth into paint and dye pigment. It takes a full year to produce ochre.
It’s a fascinating place, where the concepts of colour and pigment are examined. To quote (translated from French!): ‘Colour does not exist; it is the result of a concordance of events. Light reveals objects, matter absorbs and partially reflects the luminous rays perceived by the eyes and the brain. The sources of colouring materials are mineral, metal, plants, animals, synthetic, or artificial’.
– Meryl Hare