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Your Own Pantone: How Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, and Yves Klein Created Signature Colors

Pantone recently announced its picks for the colors of the year, Rose Quartz and Serenity, a pair chosen both as contemporary aesthetic signifiers and statement-making symbols of blurring gender identities. Designers, graphic artists and even architects are now free to either interpret, or illustrate, at will, with both or either shade (and perhaps, even take a page from Drake's book). But not all famous shades are as available to the public at large. While many use signature colors (Odile Decq and red, or Richard Meier and white), a few designers and artists have gone so far as to create their own colors, and even copyright those they felt were signature shades indicative of their work. It's a small, but telling palette that showcases the importance of hitting just the right hue.


The J.A. Sweeton House, a Wright-designed home in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, sports his signature shade on its roof.
Frank Lloyd Wright: Cherokee Red
How much did the iconic architect love Cherokee Red (#79413A), the bold hue found in so many of his projects, from Usonian homes to the SC Johnson Research Tower? When he was laid to rest, it was inside a coffin draped in Cherokee Red velvet. Scholars suggest that the inspiration for the color came from the red soil found around the Richard Lloyd home he built in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the late '20s, an area once officially known as Indian Territory. Wright also was once quoted in an issue of Architectural Record describing how the color of steel beams atop the Auditorium Theater in Chicago (near the offices of Adler & Sullivan where he once worked) had a reddish glow that "excited him." The paint was originally created by the DuPont Company (Wright has sent them a sample of Native American pottery as a guide), and now Pittsburgh Paints makes a Fallingwater line of colors that includes a Cherokee Red.



Le Corbusier: KT Color Line
Originally manufactured by the Swiss firm Salubra, this line of bright pastels was created to accentuate and compliment the white walls one usually associates with many Modernist designs. Corbu even told the manufacturer how to arrange and present these colors to potential clients. In addition to being celebrated for being particularly rich and bright, they're also very expensive due to a manufacturing process that utilizes more than a hundred mineral pigments. They're now available from KT Color, which needed to secure a license from Fondation Le Corbusier before restarting production.



Yves Klein: International Klein Blue
The highly regarded French artist known for monochrome paintings literally created a new color, collaborating with Parisian chemist and art paint supplier Edouard Adam to develop a particularly intense shade of blue that captured the luminescence of ultramarine pigment. He patented the shade, which he called International Klein Blue, in 1960, but not before making it a focal point of his "Blue Revolution," which found him applying to everything, including a trio of nude models that, during a performance piece, became "living brushes" directed by the artist.