It's the secret agent of colors: complex, discreet and completely ambiguous. You've seen it many times but may have never quite registered it because it defies categorizing. It's not gray or blue or green, but a strange and mystifying combination of all three. It changes color depending on the light and the hues which surround it. It can appear slightly sulky, calm and relaxing, or intensely introspective.
Note: It's not greige. Greige is grey meets beige and this color is much more layered than that. And it's not eau de nil or chalk or grey threadbare velvet (although that's getting closer). But I know it when I see it. I am always searching, searching for it and when I find an example, I collect it carefully into a special folder titled "Color X."
Here it is, atmospheric and ethereal, in this ocean on a cloudy day.
(T. F. Simon, "Windy Beach on Normandy", 1924)
Here, Otto Dix painted himself in a suit of it. Understated and subtle, it nevertheless calls attention to itself in an elegant way.
("To Beauty", 1922)
It makes a beautiful counterpoint against warm, pink skin, as seen in this interior.
(Pierre Bonnard, "La Sieste", c. 1899)
At other times, it gives off an air of unapproachable sangfroid.
(George Grosz, "Remember Uncle August", 1919)
Here, Christopher Baily of Burberry covered a favorite chair in a floral pattern that incorporates bits of it. The peachy background really makes it sing.
(via T Magazine)
John Singer Sargent painted circular patterns of it onto that lush rug. It sets off red beautifully -- look at how alive that screen in the corner is.
(John Singer Sargent, "Daughters of E. D. Bolt", 1882)
The Neue Galerie shop uses a chair covered in it to make some Madeline Weinrib pillows really pop.
My eyes hunt for it constantly. Once you have it in your brain, it's remarkable how often you can find it. Can you spot it here, in this photo of the Queen meeting Sir David Bailey? (It's on the strip of flocked wallpaper between them.)
Most paint companies have their own version of it. Here are a smattering of them:
Benjamin Moore 1635 Water's Edge
Benjamin Moore AC-17 Sea Pine
Benjamin Moore 1633 Brittany Blue
Behr 730F-4 Flint Smoke
Ace 190-C Dusty Jeans
Sears Shadow Cloud
Farrow and Ball Light Blue
California Paints Standish Blue
So what color is X?
The color of antique milk glass?
Of a Norse legend?
Of an oxidized copper roof by moonlight?
Of a 1920's silk faille tea gown?
Of a nor'easterly wind?
What would you call it?
(Editors Note: The answers in so far are lovely..."English Channel", "Being and Nothingness", "November", "Ether", "D Day Landing Sky", "Dust", "Undertow"....You're poets, all of you.)