World Cyanotype Day

September 25th, 2021

Also known as Berliner Blau, Prussian blue was discovered accidentally by German dye-maker Johann Jacob Diesbach. In fact, Diesbach was working on creating a new red, however, one of his materials—potash—had come into contact with animal blood. Instead of making the pigment even more red like you might expect, the animal blood created a surprising chemical reaction, resulting in a vibrant blue.

Pablo Picasso used the Prussian blue pigment exclusively during his Blue Period, and Japanese woodblock artist Katsushika Hokusai used it to create his iconic The Great Wave off Kanagawa, as well as other prints in his Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series. However, the pigment wasn’t only used for creating masterpieces. In 1842, English astronomer Sir John Herschel discovered that Prussian blue had a unique sensitivity to light, and was the perfect hue to create copies of drawings. This discovery proved invaluable to the likes of architects, who could create copies of their plans and designs, that are today known as “blueprints.” Fun fact: Today, Prussian blue is used in a pill form to cure metal poisoning.

To celebrate World Cyanotype Day 2021 Alternative Processes put together an online exhibition. 200 artists from all over the world sent their Cyanotype prints. 

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