Commentary
9:15 am
Mon May 7, 2012

Book Review: Sacre Bleu

When an author goes on a book tour, he might fall into a routine that sounds something like this:
• Fly into a city.
• Go from airport to hotel.
• Go from hotel to bookstore.
• Read from your book.
• Return to hotel.
• Fly out in the morning.

When Christopher Moore goes on book tour, he adds one more step.
• Spend some time at the local art museum.

Christopher Moore has a following, and for years I was not among them. I had always heard about his funny, irreverent writing, with titles like Fool, Lamb, and others that you would not repeat in polite company. With these books, the promise of laughter and forehead slapping wasn’t enough. When Moore threw art into the mix, questioning van Gogh’s suicide in his latest book, Sacre Bleu, it piqued my interest.

Sacre Bleu means sacred blue, the name given to a certain shade of blue used by artists during medieval times when the church said, if you’re going to paint the Virgin’s cloak, it must be with this blue. This “sacred blue” made from lapis lazuli was chosen over organic pigments for its fade resistance.

Van Gogh used sacred blue, as did all of his Impressionistic friends. And in Moore’s telling, they all used the same “colorman” for their paints and pigments. If you did business with this particular colorman, you might as well have sold your soul to the devil. The colorman and his partner, the goddess Muse, coaxed and cajoled these artists to use their sacred blue to create masterpieces—but then demanded high payment in return.

Christopher Moore’s museum visits served him well. This story of art and color illustrates that great art comes at a price, resulting in lost health, happiness, and often sanity.