Preparatory sketches, light studies, big canvases, little prints, etchings – for ages artists exercised colourless or – better say – monochromatic universe of art conjured from under their pencils, charcoal sticks, ink pens, even bare hands.
Sometimes masterfully skilled painters have been using a limited palette to prove their tonal aptitude. Ingres’s great grisaille version (which means painting in more than 50 shades of grey) of the iconic Grande Odalisque, is such a masterpiece.
Then the great Spaniards. From Velazquez known as absolute master of black and white, through Goya’s monochromatic sketches of terror and nightmares to the greatest black and white painting of them all – Picasso’s Guernica.
Besides these full-blown masterpieces there is abundance of works, maybe lesser in scale and not so excessive in technique but similar in artistic charm and skilfulness. For example, in his ink sketches Rembrandt had endlessly been carving into his own face to bring all the nuances of expression. Canaletto exercised architectural capriccios in ink and pencil. Odilon Redon translated eerie imagination and elusive dreams into black and white prints. Baroque masters have tried ceaselessly to express dynamism and drama using monochromatic techniques.
Monochrome interior design is one of these ‘forever-in-style’ trends. So, if anyone has a soft spot for black, white and grey (obviously with some accents of brass, gold, raw timber, and marble), there is a lot of stunning art to match and boost the style.