The Rainbow's Gravity:
Colour, Materiality and British Modernity

Kirsty Sinclair Dootson

Publicaton Date
May 2023
Standard Number
Yale University Press
356 pages, 255 x 230 mm

From Victorian breakthroughs in synthesising pigments to the BBC’s conversion to chromatic broadcasting, the story of colour’s technological development is inseparable from wider processes of modernisation that transformed Britain. This revolutionary history brings to light how new colour technologies informed ideas about national identity during a period of profound social change, when the challenges of industrialisation, decolonisation of the Empire and evolving attitudes to race and gender reshaped the nation. Offering a compelling new account of modern British visual culture that reveals colour to be central to its aesthetic trajectories and political formations, this chromatic lens deepens our understanding of how British art is made and what it means, offering a new way to assess the visual landscape of the period and interpret its colourful objects.
Across a kaleidoscopic array of materials, from radiant paintings by major Victorian artists, vivid print advertisements and vibrant interwar fashion photographs, to glorious Technicolor films and the prismatic programmes of the BBC’s early years of colour television, The Rainbow’s Gravity reveals how Britain modernised colour and how colour, in turn, modernised Britain.


About the author

  • Head and shoulders portrait of Kirsty Sinclair Dootson

    Kirsty Sinclair Dootson is a lecturer in film and media at University College London