Monochrome Painting in Black and White Lelia Packer, Jennifer Sliwka

Publication date:
24 Oct 2017
National Gallery London
272 pages: 279 x 229mm
160 color illus.
Sales territories:


Painting “without color” has long held a fascination for artists. In this striking and original book, the authors explore how and why artists from the 15th century to the present have chosen to paint in black, white, and shades of gray. Sometimes artists used trompe l’oeil monochromatic effects to represent other media, such as sculpture, prints, or photography; others have consciously limited their palette as a means of re-focusing the viewer’s attention, while contemporary artists such as Gerhard Richter and Bridget Riley have often found inspiration in pushing black and white to its limits, and in new directions. The authors trace the history of this art form, from the symbolism of sacred images in medieval church ritual – epitomized in Netherlandish painting from the 15th century onwards by Hans Memling and Jan van Eyck – to the modern era and the work of artists such as Josef Albers and Ellsworth Kelly. 

Lelia Packer is the former McCrindle Curatorial Assistant at the National Gallery, London. Jennifer Sliwka is the deputy director of the Visual Commentary on Scripture project and senior research fellow at Kings College London.