By Derek Jarman. Introduction by Michael Charlesworth 

Derek Jarman’s Blue weaves a sensory tapestry that serves as both a political call to action and a meditation on illness, dying, and love.

“For Blue there are no boundaries or solutions.” —Derek Jarman

Originally released as a feature film in 1993, the year before the acclaimed artist and filmmaker Derek Jarman’s death due to an AIDS-related illness, Blue is a daring and powerful work of art. The film and its script, as reproduced in this volume, serve as an impassioned response to the lack of political engagement with the AIDS crisis.

Jarman’s Blue moves through myriad scenes, some banal, others fantastical. Stories of quotidian life––getting coffee, reading the newspaper, and walking down the sidewalk––escalate to visions of Marco Polo, the Taj Mahal, or blue fighting yellow. Facing death and a cascade of pills, Jarman presents his illness in delirium and metaphors. He contemplates the physicality of emotions in lyrical prose as he grounds this story in the constant return to Blue—a color, a feeling, a funk. Michael Charlesworth’s compelling introduction brings Blue into conversation with Jarman’s visual paintings.


Publisher: David Zwirner Books

Artists: ekphrasis

Contributors: Derek Jarman, Michael Charlesworth

Designer: Mike Dyer

Printer: VeronaLibri, Verona

Publication Date: 2023

Binding: Softcover

Dimensions: 4.25 × 7 in | 10.8 × 17.8 cm

Pages: 64

Reproductions: 4 illustrations

ISBN: 9781644230886

Retail: $15 | $20 CAN | £10.95

Status: Available


Dedicated to publishing rare, out-of-print, and newly commissioned texts as accessible paperback volumes the ekphrasis series is part of David Zwirner Books’s ongoing effort to publish new and surprising pieces of writing on visual culture.

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Derek Jarman

Derek Jarman (1942–1994) was an English artist, filmmaker, set designer, diarist, author, and gardener. After attending King's College London and the Slade School of Art, he began a career as a painter. As a set designer, he worked on such productions as The Royal Ballet’s Jazz Calendar (1968) and The English National Opera’s production of Don Giovanni (1968), as well as a number of films. In the early 1970s, Jarman began a series of filmworks made with Super 8, followed by his first full-length feature film, Sebastiane, in 1975. He went on to make ten more feature films, among them the famous experimental Caravaggio (1986) and The Garden (1990). His final feature, Blue, was first shown at the Biennale Arte, Venice, in June 1993, seven months before his death.

Michael Charlesworth

Michael Charlesworth is a professor of art history at the University of Texas at Austin, teaching nineteenth-century European painting and photography. Specializing in interdisciplinary approaches, he has in recent years written the first full-length study of Reginald Farrer, the early twentieth-century plant collector, gardener, writer, watercolor painter, and Buddhist, and a critical life of Derek Jarman. He has published articles on early photography, the picturesque, and eighteenth-century panoramic drawing, as well as scholarly articles on the gardens of Stourhead, Rievaulx Terrace, and Wentworth Castle. His interdisciplinary study Landscape and Vision in Nineteenth-Century Britain and France was published in 2008. Over the past two years, Charlesworth has been writing a second book project about Derek Jarman while living in a small wooden house in Austin, Texas, built in 1917, with a small garden around it.