Colour Quotes – the most pertinent ones

The same red that agitates people in a scientific laboratory also agitates them when they load web pages with red backgrounds. In one series of experiments, people felt more agitated while waiting for a red or yellow web page to load than when the same page had a blue background. This agitation made them impatient, so they believed that the yellow and red pages took longer to load than the blue page did, though both pages loaded at the same speed. Later they also claimed that they would be less likely to recommend the site to a friend.

Alter, Adam (2013-09-05). Drunk Tank Pink (Kindle Locations 2318-2321). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.

sometimes the most striking insights come from simple verbal responses. For decades, researchers have asked test subjects why they responded so intensely to the colour red, and dozens have replied that it disturbs them because it reminds them of blood and, consequently, injury, illness, and even death. Colours are powerful, not just because we respond to them physically but also because they remind us of the objects that embody them— red blood, blue sky, yellow sun, and green grass.

Alter, Adam (2013-09-05). Drunk Tank Pink (Kindle Locations 2324-2327). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.

people are far more likely to remember pictures of a place presented in colour rather than in black and white, and memory is a critical component of intellectual performance. According to the psychologists who studied the phenomenon, we’re able to bury coloured scenes deeper in our memory, and later to retrieve them more effectively than identical scenes presented in black and white.

Alter, Adam (2013-09-05). Drunk Tank Pink (Kindle Locations 2404-2407). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.

People who are exposed to natural scenes aren’t just happier or more comfortable; the very buildingblocks of their physiological well-being also respond positively to natural therapy. Natural environments promote calmness and well-being in part because they expose people to low levels of stress.Alter, Adam (2013-09-05). Drunk Tank Pink (Kindle Locations 2682-2684). Oneworld Publications. Kindle the absence of natural restoration, the human brain copes with this clutter by going into over-drive, briefly scanning the environment more clearly and deeply than it usually does until fatigue forces it to return to a stable state of shallower mental processing .

Alter, Adam (2013-09-05). Drunk Tank Pink (Kindle Locations 2700-2702). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.

Across the ages, these summer highs and winter lows have been especially pronounced among artists, writers, and intellectuals. Vincent Van Gogh swung wildly between his famous periods of wintertime melancholy and extreme periods of summertime elation.

Alter, Adam (2013-09-05). Drunk Tank Pink (Kindle Locations 3089-3091). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.

Van Gogh’s artworks were similarly swayed by the seasons, dominated by ominous clouds and darkness in the winter months, and optimistic sunshine, light, and stars during the summer months. His aggressive brushstrokes, loaded with mounds of paint, became more frenzied in the winter months and lost some of their intensity when summer arrived.

Alter, Adam (2013-09-05). Drunk Tank Pink (Kindle Locations 3094-3096). Oneworld Publications. Kindle Edition.

Why can’t we imagine a grey-hot?Ludwig Wittegstein, Remarks on Colour, 1950. P13[…] red may cause a sensation analogous to that caused by flame, because red is the colour of flame. A warm red will prove exciting, another shade of red will cause paint or disgust through association with running blood. In these cases colour awakens a corresponding physical sensation, which undoubtedly works upon the soul.If this were always the case, it would be easy to define by association the effects of colour upon other senses than that of sight. One might say that keen yellow looks sour, because it recalls the taste of a lemon.Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, 1911. P57-60[…] given the lay of memory, acquired in looking at nature, logical and organic habits are created in us which confer on each object a qualifying and hence constructive colour; thus blue cannot be used to create a volume that should ‘come forward’, because our eye, accustomed to seeing blue in depths (sky, sea), in backgrounds and in distant objects (horizons), does not permit with impunity the reversing of these conditions. Hence a plane that comes forwards can never be blue; it could be green (grass), brown (earth); in summary, colours should be disciplined while taking account of these two incontestable standards:

  1. The primary sensory standard, immediate excitation of the senses (red and the bull, black and sadness).
  2. The secondary standard of memory, recall of visual experience and of our harmonization of the world (soil is not blue, the sky is not brown, and if sometimes they may seem so, it would only be an accident to be disregarded by the art of invariables).
C.E. Jeanneret (Le Corbusier) and Amedee Ozenfant Purism, 1920. Documents of Contemporary Art, Edited by David Batchelor P74

[…] colour is wholly relative. Every hue throughout your work is altered by every touch that you add in other places; so that what was warm, a minute ago, becomes cold when you have put a hotter colour in another place, and what was in harmony when you left it, becomes discordant as you set other colours beside it; so that every touch must be laid, not with a view it its effect at the time, but with a view to its effect in futurity, the result upon it of all that is afterwards to be done being previously considered. You may easily understand that, this being so, nothing but the devotion of life, and great genius besides, can make a colourist.

John Ruskin, The Elements of Drawing, 1857. Documents of Contemporary Art, Edited by David Batchelor P29

To paint an autumn landscape I will not try to remember what colours suit this season, I will be inspired only by the sensation that the season arouses in me: the icy purity of the sour blue sky will express the season just as well as the nuances of foliage. My sensation itself may vary, the autumn may be soft and warm like a continuation of summer, or quite cool with a cold sky and lemon-yellow trees that give a chilly impression and already announce winter.My choice of colours does not rest on any scientific theory; it is based on observation, on sensitivity, on felt experiences.

Henri Matisse, Notes of a Painter, 1908. Documents of Contemporary Art, Edited by David Batchelor P53

Colour cannot stand alone; it cannot dispense with boundaries of some kind. A never-ending extent of red can only be seen in the mind; when the word red is heard, the colour is evoked without definite boundaries. If such are necessary they have deliberately to be imagined. But such red is seen by the mind and not by the eye exercises at once a definite and an indefinite impression on the soul, and produces spiritual harmony.

Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, 1911. Documents of Contemporary Art, Edited by David Batchelor P58-59

A painter was not interested in giving the sensation of colourfulness but rather the sensation of the recession of colour, that is, it its various intervals of grey as it receded. Also, instead of affecting the emotions sensually by the interaction of colours the artist affected mood through the pervasion of the entire surface by a single colour mood in much the same way we described the use of colour mood in modern theatre.

Mark Rothko, Objective Impressionism, c. 1940-41. Documents of Contemporary Art, Edited by David Batchelor P93

56. But what if no such sample is part of the language, and we bear in mind the colour (for instance) that a word stands for? – ‘And if we bear it in mind then it comes before our mind’s eye when we utter the word. So, if it is always supposed to be possible for us to remember it, it must be in itself indestructible.’ – But what do we regard as the criterion for remembering it right? – When we work with a sample instead of our memory there are circumstances in which we say that the sample has changed colour and we judge of this by memory. But can we not sometimes speak of a darkening (for example) of our memory-image? Aren’t we as much at the mercy of memory as of a sample? (For someone might feel like saying: ‘If we had no memory we should be at the mercy of a sample.’) – Or perhaps of some chemical reaction. Imagine that you were supposed to paint a particular colour ‘C’, which was the colour that appeared when the chemical substances X and Y combined. – Suppose that the colour struck you are brighter on one day than on another; would you not sometimes say: ‘I must be wrong, the colour is certainly the same as yesterday’? This shows that we do not always resort to what memory tells us as the verdict of the highest court of appeal.

57. ‘Something red can be destroyed, but red cannot be destroyed, and that is why the meaning of the word ‘red’ is independent of the existence of a red thing.’ – Certainly it makes no sense to say that the colour red is torn up or pounded to bits. But don’t we say ‘The red is vanishing’? And don’t clutch at the idea of our always being able to bring red before our mind’s eye even when there is nothing red any more. That is just as if you chose to say that there would still always be a chemical reaction producing a red flame. – For suppose you cannot remember the colour any more? – When we forget which colour this is the name of, it loses its meaning for us; that is, we are no longer able to play a particular language game with it. And the situation then is comparable with that in which we have lost a paradigm which was an instrument of our language. […]

272. The essential thing about private experience is really not that each person possesses his own exemplar, but that nobody knows whether other people also have this or something else. The assumption would thus be possible – though unverifiable – that one section of mankind had one sensation of red and another section another.

273. What am I to say about the word ‘red’? – that it means something ‘confronting us all’ and that everyone should really have another word, besides this one, to mean his own sensation of red? Or is it like this: the word ‘red’ means something known to everyone; and in addition, for each person, it means something known only to him? (Or perhaps rather: it refers to something known only to him.)

274. Of course, saying the word ‘red’ ‘refers to’ instead of ‘means’ something private does not help us in the least to grasp its function; but it is the more psychologically apt expression for a particular experience in doing philosophy. It is as if when I uttered the word I cast a sidelong glance at the private sensation, as it were in order to say to myself: I know all right what I mean by it.

275. Look at the blue of the sky and say to yourself ‘How blue the sky is!’ – When you do it spontaneously – without philosophical intentions – the idea never crosses your mind that this impression of colour belongs only to you. And you have no hesitation in exclaiming that to someone else. And if you point at anything as you say the words you point at the sky. I am saying: you have not the feeling of pointing-into-yourself, which often accompanies ‘naming the sensation’ when one is thinking about ‘private language’. Nor do you think that really you ought not to point to the colour with your hand, but with your attention. (Consider what it means ‘to point to something with the attention’.)

276. But don’t we at least mean something quite definite when we look at a colour and name our colour-impression? It is as if we detached the colour-impression from the object, like a membrane. (This ought to arouse our suspicions.)

277. But how is it even possible for us to be tempted to think that we use a word to mean at one time the colour known to everyone – and at another the ‘visual impression’ which I am getting now? How can there be so much as a temptation here? – I don’t turn the same kind of attention on the colour in the two cases. When I mean the colour impression that (as I should like to say) belongs to me alone I immerse myself in the colour – rather like when I ‘cannot get my fill of a colour’. Hence it is easier to produce this experience when one is looking at a bright colour, or at an impressive colour-scheme.

278. ‘I know how the colour green look to me‘ – surely that makes sense! – Certainly: what use of the proposition are you thinking of?

279. Imagine sometime saying: ‘But I know how tall I am!’ an laying his hand on top of his head to prove it.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 1945-49. Documents of Contemporary Art, Edited by David Batchelor P104-6

The psychological influences, conscious or unconscious, of these factors, light and colour, are very important. The example of a modern factory in Rotterdam is conclusive. The old factory was dark and sad. The new one was bright and coloured: transparent. Then something happened. Without any remark to the personnel, the clothes of the workers became neat and tidy. More neat and tidy. They felt that an important event had just happened around them, within them. Colour and light had succeeded in creating this new evolution. Its action is not only external. It is possible, while leaving it to grow rationally, wholly to change a society. […]

The polychrome clinic, the colour cure, was a new unknown domain beginning to thrill young doctors: some green and blue wards for nervous and sick people, some others painted yellow and red, stimulating and nutritious for depressed and anaemic people.Colour in social life has indeed a great role to fill. Colour tries to cover over humdrum daily routines. It dresses them up. The humblest objects use it as a concealment of their real purpose. A bird on a handkerchief, a flower on a coffee cup. A decorative life.

Fernand Leger, On Monumentality and Colour, 1943. Documents of Contemporary Art, Edited by David Batchelor P94-97

Certainly music and colour have nothing in common, but they follow parallel paths. Seven notes with slight modifications are all that is needed to write any score. Why wouldn’t it be the same for plastic art?

Henri Matisse, The Role and Modalities of Colour, 1945. Documents of Contemporary Art, Edited by David Batchelor P98-9927.

I seem to see one thing that is of logical importance: if you call green an intermediary colour between blue and yellow, then you must also be able to say, for example, what a slightly bluish yellow is, or an only somewhat yellowish blue. And to me these expressions don’t mean anything at all. But mightn’t they mean something to someone else?

So if someone described the colour of a wall to me by saying: ‘It was a somewhat reddish yellow’, I could understand him in such a way that I choose approximately the right colour from among a number of samples. But if someone described the colour in this way: ‘It was a somewhat bluish yellow’, I could not show him such a sample. – Here we usually say that in the one case we can imagine the colour, and in the other we can’t – but this way of speaking is misleading, for there is no need whatsoever to think of an image that appears before the inner eye. […]

156. Runge: ‘Black dirties. That means it takes the brightness out of a colour, but what does that mean? Black takes away the luminosity of a colour. But is tat something logical or something psychological? There is such a thing as a luminous red, a luminous blue, etc., but no luminous black. Black is the darkest of the colours. We say ‘deep black’ but not ‘deep white’.

But a ‘luminous red’ does not mean a light red. A dark red can be luminous too. But a colour is luminous as a result of its context, in its context.Grey, however, is not luminous.But black seems to make a colour cloudy, but darkness doesn’t. A ruby could this keep getting darker without ever becoming cloudy; but if it became blackish red, it would become cloudy. Now black is a surface colour. Darkness is not called a colour. In paintings darkness can also be depicted as black.The difference between black and, say, a dark violet is similar to the difference between the sound of a bass drum and the sound of a kettle-drum. We say of the former that it is a noise not a tone. It is matt and absolutely black. […]

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Remarks on Colour, 1950. Documents of Contemporary Art, Edited by David Batchelor P106-7

[…] my work is an attempt to reveal the nature of colour and its effect on man, without the barriers of cultural convention, because I realized that our relationship with the world of colour is deeply affective.

Our chromatic decisions are not fully rational.

Why can’t I stand that red and that yellow together?… I like that blue… I don’t like that one …

There is no logical argument for my decision, unless it is a technical matter of respecting certain reading and signalling codes. Some think I have what is called ‘good taste’ in combining colours, whereas others think the opposite. […]

…we don’t have  visual memory for colour. The only thing we memorize is ‘generic blue’, ‘generic red’, but never a particular shade, because the chromatic experience is the product of ‘random events’ like light, intensity, opaqueness, distance, matter, etc. It is like the person who returns home and realizes that the shade of colour he chose is not the same he thought he had seen at the store. […]

Throughout the centuries, colour has been understood and used in the same way: first form; then colour. The ‘something’ that fills the form.

For many, colour has been and remains, anecdotal to form.

In general terms, this concept hasn’t changed and it has created the binary: form – colour

e.g. the red apple … the white table …

Carlos Cruz-Diez, Reflections on Colour, 1981. Documents of Contemporary Art, Edited by David Batchelor P110-12

And ‘White’ appears. Absolute white. White beyond all whiteness. White of the coming of the White. White without compromise, through exclusion, through total eradication of nonwhite. Insane, enraged white, screaming with whiteness. Fanatical, furious, riddling the retina. Horrible electric white, implacable, murderous. White in bursts of white. God of ‘white’. No, not a god, a howler monkey. (Let’s hope my cells don’t blow apart.)

End of white. I have a feeling that for a long time to come white is going to have something excessive for me.

Henri Michaux, With Mescaline, 1956. Documents of Contemporary Art, Edited by David Batchelor P118

In my judgement two colours juxtaposed on one canvas compel the observer to see the spectacle of this juxtaposition of two colours, or their perfect accord, but prevent him from entering into the sensitivity, the dominance, the purpose of the picture. This is a situation of the psyche, of the senses, of the emotions, which perpetuates a sort of reign of cruelty (laughter), and one can no longer plunge into the sensibility of pure colour, relieved from all outside contamination. […]Blue has no dimensions, it is beyond dimensions, whereas the other colours are not. They are pre-psychological expanses, red, for example, presupposing a site radiating heat. All colours arouse specific associative ideas, psychologically material or tangible, while blue suggests at most the sea and sky, and they, after all, are in actual, visible nature what is most abstract.

Yves Klein, The Evolution of Art towards the Immaterial, 1959. Documents of Contemporary Art, Edited by David Batchelor P120-22

Two matched colours, or two tones of the same colour are already an alien element in the concept of a single, limitless, totally dynamic surface. Infinity is a strictly monochromatic, or better still, colourless. Strictly speaking, does not a monochrome, in the absence of all rapport between colours, eventually become colourless? […]Why worry about the position of a line in space? Why determine this space? Why limit it? The composition of forms, their position in space, spatial depth, are all problems that do not concern us. A line can only be drawn, however, long, to the infinite; beyond all problems of composition or of dimensions. There are no dimensions in total space.Furthermore, the questions concerning colour, chromatic relations (even if this only involves nuances) are shown to be useless. We can only open out a single colour or present a continuous and uninterrupted surface (excluding all interference of the superfluous, all possibility of interpretation). It is not a question of painting the contrary of everything. My intention is to present a completely white surface (or better still, an absolutely colourless or neutral one) beyond all pictorial phenomena, all intervention alien to the sense of the surface. A white surface which is neither a polar landscape, nor an evocative or beautiful subject, nor even a sensation, or symbol or anything else; but a white surface which is nothing other than a colourless surface, or even a surface which quite simply ‘is’. Being (the total being which is pure Becoming).

Piero Manzoni, Free Dimension, 1960. Documents of Contemporary Art, Edited by David Batchelor P122-3

A canvas full of rhetorical strokes may be full, but the fullness may be just hollow energy, just as a scintillating wall of colours may be full of colour but have no colour. My canvases are full not because they are full of colours but because colour makes the fullness. The fullness thereof is what I am involved in. It is interesting to me to notice how difficult it is for people to take the intense heat and blaze of my colour. If my paintings were empty they could take them with ease.

Barnett Newman, Frontiers of Space, 1962. Documents of Contemporary Art, Edited by David Batchelor P125.

As harmony and harmonizing is also a concern of music, so a parallelism of effect between tone combinations and colour combinations seems unavoidable and appropriate. Although a comparison of composed colours with composed tones is very challenging, it should be mentioned that, while it can be helpful, it is often misleading. This is because different basic conditions of these media result in different behaviour.Tones appear placed and directed predominantly in time from before to now to later. Their juxtaposition in a musical composition is perceived within a prescribed sequence only. Vertically, so to say, one tone, or several simultaneously, sound for a varying but restricted length of time. Horizontally, the tones follow each other, perhaps not in a straight line, but of necessity in a prescribed order and only in one direction – forwards. Tones heard earlier fade, and those farther back disappear, vanish. We do not hear them backwards.Colours appear connected predominantly in space. Therefore as constellations they can be seen in any direction and at any speed. And as they remain, we can return to them repeatedly and in many ways.This remaining and not remaining, or vanishing and not vanishing, shows only one essential difference between the fields of tone and colour. […]By giving up preference for harmony, we accept dissonance to be as desirable as consonance.

Josef Albers, Interaction of Colour, 1963. Documents of Contemporary Art, Edited by David Batchelor P128-30

Of the colours, blue and green have the greatest emotional range. Sad reds and melancholy yellows are difficult to turn up. Among the ancient elements, blue occurs everywhere: in ice and water, in the flame as purely as in the flower, overhead and inside caves, covering fruit and oozing out of clay. Although green enlivens the earth and mixes in the ocean, and we find it, copperish, in fire; green air, green skies, are rare. Grey and brown are widely distributed, but there are no joyful swatches of either, or any of exuberant black, sullen pink, or acquiescent orange. Blue is therefore most suitable as the colour of interior life. Whether slick light sharp high bright think quick sour new and cool or low deep sweet thick dark soft slow smooth heavy old and warm: blue m0ves easily among them all, and all profoundly qualify our states of feeling.

William H. Gass, On Being Blue, 1976. Documents of Contemporary Art, Edited by David Batchelor P153-5

I will sometimes start a picture feeling ‘What will happen if I work with three blues and another colour, and maybe more or less of the other colour than the combined blues?’ And very often midway through the picture I have to change the basis of the experience. Or I add and add to the canvas. And if it’s over-worked and beyond help I throw it away. […]I’d rather risk an ugly surprise than rely on things I know I can do. The whole business of spotting; the small area of colour in a big canvas; how edges meet; how accidents are controlled; all this fascinates me, though it is often where I am most facile and most seducible by my own talent.

Helen Frankenthaler, Interview with Henry Geldzahler, 1965. Documents of Contemporary Art, Edited by David Batchelor P131-2

I begin with colour. The development of a colour structure ultimately determines its expansion or compression – its outer edge. Outer edge is inescapable. I recognize the line it declares, as drawing. This line delineates and separates the painting from the space around and appears to be on the wall (strictly speaking, it remains in front of the wall). Outer edge cannot be visualised as being in some way within – it is the outermost extension of the colour structure. The decision as to where the outer edge is, is final, not initial.Wherever edge exists- both within a painting and at its limits – it must be felt as a necessary outcome of the colour structure. Paint can be colour and drawing when the edge of the painting is established as the final realization of the colour structure.

Jules Olitski, Painting in Colour, 1966. Documents of Contemporary Art, Edited by David Batchelor P134

Bridget Riley, one of the modern artists most concerned with colour relationships, has expressed the dilemma very clearly: For painters, colour is not only all those things which we all see but also, most extraordinarily, the pigments spread out on the palette, and there, quite uniquely, they are simply and solely colour. This is the first important fact of the painter’s art to be grasped. These bright and shining pigments will not, however , continue to lie there on the palette as pristine colours in themselves but will be put to use – for the painter paints a picture, so the use of colour has to be conditioned by this function of picture making . . . The painter has two quite distinct systems of colour to deal with – one provided by nature, the other required by art – perceptual colour and pictorial colour. Both will be present and the painter’s work depends upon the emphasis they place first upon the one and then upon the other.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 269-276). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Riley’s formulation of the artist’s situation. Pigments are not ‘simply and solely colour’, but substances with specific properties and attributes, not least amongst them cost. How is your desire for blue affected if you have just paid more for it than for the equivalent weight in gold? That yellow looks glorious, but what if its traces on your fingertips could poison you at your supper table? This orange tempts like distilled sunlight, but how do you know that it will not have faded to dirty brown by next year? What, in short, is your relationship with the materials?

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 278-282). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Use of colour in art is determined at least as much by the artist’s personal inclinations and cultural context as by the materials to hand.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 289-290). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Every choice an artist makes is an act of exclusion as well as inclusion.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 291-292). Random House. Kindle Edition.

each artist makes his or her own contract with the colours of the time.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 293-294). Random House. Kindle Edition.

The artist’s cause demanded that artists dissociated themselves from craftsmen , and allied their skills with mathematics and abstract thought.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 336-337). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Unusually among artists, students of ceramics are one group who still have to learn some real chemistry

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 382-383). Random House. Kindle Edition.

The truth – a dirty truth, if you will – is that new colours for artists have long been a by-product of industrial chemical processes that reach out to a much wider market .

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 389-390). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Yves Klein invites us to engage with the beauty of raw colour. This goes against our training.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Location 415). Random House. Kindle Edition.

colour threatens us with regression, with infantilism.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Location 416). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Cultural theorist Julia Kristeva claims that ‘the chromatic experience constitutes a menace to the “self” . . . Colour is the shattering of unity.’ 12 What else is coloured? Vulgar things, vulgar people. Colour speaks of heightened emotions, even linguistically, and of eroticism.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 416-419). Random House. Kindle Edition.

How could red and green ever be conflated? From a modern-day perspective this appears absurd, because we have in our minds Isaac Newton’s rainbow spectrum and its corresponding colour terminology , with its seven bands firmly delineated. The Greeks saw a different spectrum, with white at one end and black at the other – or more properly, light and dark. All the colours lay along the scale between these two extremes, being admixtures of light and dark in different degrees. Yellow was towards the light end (it appears the brightest of colours for physiological reasons). Red and green were both considered median colours, midway between light and dark – and so in some sense equivalent .Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 464-469). Random House. Kindle Edition.The confusion of blue and yellow may have been purely linguistic, or it may have its origin in the naming of colours after the materials that supplied them ( see here ). For reasons that are far from clear, blue and yellow are categorized together in many languages and cultures, including some Slavic tongues, the Ainu language of northern Japan, the Daza language of East Nigeria and that of the Mechopdo Native Americans in northern California. The Latin flavus, meaning yellow, is the etymological root of blue, bleu and blau.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 471-475). Random House. Kindle Edition.

whether or not an artist considers two hues to be different colours or variants of the same colour is largely a linguistic issue.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 477-478). Random House. Kindle Edition.

As there are no culture -independent concepts of basic colours, it seems impossible to establish a universal basis for a discussion of colour use.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 481-482). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Hanunoo, which is spoken by a Malayo -Polynesian people in the Philippines, has four colour terms: ‘dark’ and ‘light’, which we can equate readily enough with black and white; but also ‘fresh’ and ‘dry’ (in so far as they can be matched with English words at all). Some prefer to ally these two with green and red, but they seem to allude to texture as much as to hue. There is no Hanunoo word meaning ‘colour’.Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 490-493). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Without a secure theoretical basis for classification, talk of colour needs to be rooted in the physical substances that provide it. Yet this simply creates fresh scope for ambiguity, for the substance can mutate into a colour term in its own right. Scarlet, for example, was once a kind of medieval dyed cloth, which need not have been red at all.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 521-523). Random House. Kindle Edition.

It is tempting to regard modern and abstract painters as the first consciously to decide that they would not simply try to paint ‘what they saw’. Yet the most casual of glances at any image from the Renaissance or the Baroque period shows how much the work is guided by certain conventions, and at the same time by imagination and interpretation, rather than being an attempt to depict nature as faithfully as possible.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 524-527). Random House. Kindle Edition.

For example , until the late nineteenth century, using colour to mimic nature was necessarily an artifice in at least this respect: nearly all paintings were produced in studios with reliance on the painter’s judgement about ‘proper’ composition and contrast. It was only when painting of finished works (as opposed to reference studies) out of doors was pioneered by the French Realists , and later adopted by the Impressionists, that artists began to liberate themselves from academic notions about light and shade, to see the purples and blues in shadows, the yellows and oranges in ‘white’ sunlight.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 528-532). Random House. Kindle Edition.

– it became desirable to display the most costly and wonderful pigments in flat, unbroken fields of colour:

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 557-560). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Leon Battista Alberti discusses juxtapositions of colour almost as if arranging a series of coloured wooden blocks – or in this case, the robes of a series of nymphs: If red stands between blue and green, it somehow enhances their beauty as well as its own. White lends gaiety, not only when placed between grey and yellow, but almost to any colour. But dark colours acquire a certain dignity when between light colours, and similarly light colours may be placed with good effect among dark. 20 There is in this advice a hint of the ideas about colour harmony that were to recur throughout artistic theory from the Renaissance to the twentieth century.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 563-569). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1912), where we find such claims as this: Yellow is the typical earthly colour. It can never have profound meaning. An intermixture of blue makes it a sickly colour . . . Vermilion is a red with a feeling of sharpness, like glowing steel which can be cooled by water . . . Orange is like a man, convinced of his own powers . . . Violet is . . . rather sad and ailing.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 612-615). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Bridget Riley, it is precisely this that makes colour so powerful a medium of artistic expression: . . . just because there is no guiding principle, no firm conceptual basis on which a tradition of colour painting can be reliably founded, this means that each individual artistic sensibility has a chance to discover a unique means of expression.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 628-631). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Inorganic nature has only the language of colour. It is by colour alone that a certain stone tells us it is a sapphire or an emerald. Charles Blanc , Grammar of Painting and Engraving (1867)

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 637-640). Random House. Kindle Edition.

The sky is blue because blue light is scattered by the molecules and dust in the atmosphere more strongly than red light, and so seems to come from all directions. Distant hills acquire a blueness for the same reason: the reflected light is augmented by the omnidirectional blue before reaching the eye. (In art this blueing of distant landscape, described by Leonardo, is called aerial perspective.) As the sun sinks low in the sky, its rays travel through a thicker slice of the atmosphere before reaching the observer, and the blue component of the light may be scattered so strongly that it never gets to the eye.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 715-723). Random House. Kindle Edition.

because light passing from air to rock at the surface of a dry pebble experiences a greater change in refractive index than light passing from water to rock when the pebble is wet, more of it is scattered rather than being reflected directly to our eye. This makes the dry pebble look paler and chalkier than the wet pebble.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 834-837). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Sadly, the same effect can undo the bright promise of pigments: glorious as dry powders, they might become dark or semitransparent when mixed with a binding agent such as linseed oil. This degradation of brilliance when a pigment meets the liquid medium of a paint is what dismayed Yves Klein and led him on his chemical quest for a new binder that honoured the vibrancy of the raw pigment.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 834-839). Random House. Kindle Edition

A blend of pigments, on the other hand, subtracts wavelengths from white light. That is to say, the pigments themselves are not the sources of the light that triggers a colour sensation, but are media that act on a separate source of illumination. A red pigment plucks out the blue and green rays, and much of the yellows; only red light is reflected.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 931-934). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Subtractive mixing inevitably penalizes the luminosity of the pigments, since more of the illumination is absorbed by the mixture. For example, most red and yellow pigments inevitably absorb a little orange light. So the orange that results from their mixture isn’t very brilliant – some of the orange light is lost from the white light that illuminates the image. In contrast, a genuine orange pigment absorbs virtually no light in the ‘orange’ part of the spectrum and so doesn’t suffer from this defect. This is why a genuine orange pigment may be more vibrant than a mixture of red and yellow.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 939-943). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Goethe recognized that strong hues tend to generate an impression of their complementary colour in the surrounding field, like a contrasting halo. The same effect arises in the ‘after-image’ produced when one stares at a colour for long moments and then looks away.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 957-959). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Every decided colour does a certain violence to the eye, and forces it to opposition,’ he suggested, more or less correctly. It is for the same physiological reason that a colour looks more vivid if juxtaposed with its complementary: the two colours mutually enhance one another, and generate a kind of vibration at their interface. This idea was to become central to the thinking of all colouristically inclined artists in the nineteenth century, particularly the Impressionists.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 964-967). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Of different colours equally perfect, that will appear most excellent which is seen near its direct contrary . . . blue near a yellow, green near red: because each colour is more distinctly seen when opposed to its contrary, than to any other similar to it.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 970-972). Random House. Kindle Edition.

The differing colour sensitivity of rods and cones results in a change in the perceived intensity of blue/ green objects relative to red as twilight deepens.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 1009-1010). Random House. Kindle Edition.

The blue-light cones are the least sensitive, which is why fully saturated blue looks relatively dark. Blue’s late historical arrival as a true colour, as opposed to a kind of black, is thus ultimately for biological reasons.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 1013-1015). Random House. Kindle Edition.

What, then, is grey? Along with black and white, grey is sometimes classified as an oxymoronic ‘achromatic colour’ – we might say that grey has no ‘colour’ as such, but is more of an intermediary between light and dark. Grey is what we perceive when all wavelengths are absorbed partially, yet more or less equally , from white light. It is, if you will, white light with the volume turned down.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 1048-1051). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Brown is in fact a kind of grey biased towards yellow or orange. A brown surface absorbs all wavelengths to some extent, but orange/ yellow somewhat less than others. Another way of saying this is that brown is a low-brightness yellow or orange,

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 1052-1054). Random House. Kindle Edition.

in English and most other European languages there is still no generally accepted colour term for the hue between yellow and green, or that between green and blue, even though these occupy appreciable parts of the perimeter.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 1065-1066). Random House. Kindle Edition.

‘Fine blue is derived from a stone and comes from across the seas and so is called ultramarine.’

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 1931-1932). Random House. Kindle Edition.

A glaze acts as a kind of colour filter: a red lake glaze over a blue ground transforms it to rich purple. By carefully building up layers of oil glazes, van Eyck produced saturated, jewel-like colours that look as sensuous today as they must have done at the time.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 2338-2340). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Ultramarine, meanwhile, was ten times more expensive than azurite. So the price differential was vastly greater than that a painter would encounter today – no doubt with a proportionate influence on the choice of colours.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 2518-2520). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Titian used the grain to develop something like optical mixing ( see here ), letting undercolours show through in the gaps where a brush-stroke had passed over the textured surface. There was none of the invisibility of effort that Vasari so exalted; Titian, like the artists of China and Japan, left the energy of his brush-strokes evident, which is why his paintings are bursting with vitality.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 2563-2566). Random House. Kindle Edition.

‘Pink’ was a pigment of diverse provenance – recipes identify it as an extract of weld, broom, or unripe buckthorn berries – but often of an indisputably yellow hue. Pinks were in fact defined in terms of neither their ingredients nor their colour – for there were also green pinks, brown pinks and rose pinks. It appears that the noun refers instead, like ‘lake’, to the method of synthesis . Pinks were comprised of an organic colourant carried on an inorganic powder.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 2856-2859). Random House. Kindle Edition.

To obtain the best from their pigments, the Pre-Raphaelites copied the habits of Rubens and the Venetian Old Masters by glazing thin coats of barely mixed colours over opaque white grounds to ensure maximum luminosity.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 3386-3387). Random House. Kindle Edition.

try to forget what objects you have before you, a tree, a house, a field or whatever. Merely think here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow , and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact colour and shape, until it gives your own naive impression of the scene before you. Claude Monet

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 3400-3403). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Seurat was aware that subtractive mixing – blending – of pigments inevitably degraded their brightness, and so undermined efforts to portray the luminous glow of sunlight on surfaces . Instead he resolved to achieve his mixtures optically: by placing side by side small dots of complementary colours, he hoped they would mix optically on the retina to achieve greater luminosity than a mix of pigments.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 3791-3793). Random House. Kindle Edition.

and what Chevreul deduced from his studies of woven threads. John Ruskin described much the same phenomenon in his Elements of Drawing (1857), in which he spoke of the blending of colours by painting one with a dry brush over canvas and placing dabs of another ‘cunningly into the interstices’ so as to produce ‘minute grains of interlaced colour’. 18 But most attractive to Seurat was the fact that, at the viewing distance just before that where two complementary colours blend, the eye hovers on the verge of seeing two colours become one, and the paint surface seems to flicker as if luminous.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 3799-3804). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Pointillage . . . simply makes the surface of the paintings more lively but it does not guarantee luminosity, intensity of colour or harmony. The complementary colours which are allies and enhance each other when juxtaposed, are enemies and destroy each other if mixed, even optically. A red and a green if juxtaposed enliven each other; but red dots and green dots make an aggregate which is grey and colourless.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 3850-3853). Random House. Kindle Edition.

What bliss there is in blueness . I never knew how blue blueness could be. Vladimir Nabokov , Laughter in the Dark (1989)

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 4625-4627). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Blue gives other colours their vibration. Paul Cézanne

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 4628-4629). Random House. Kindle Edition.

What is blue? Blue is the invisible becoming visible . . . Blue has no dimensions. It ‘is’ beyond the dimensions of which other colours partake. Yves Klein

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 4630-4632). Random House. Kindle Edition.

WHAT IS IT about blue that has lured painters so consistently? Majesty, yes; melancholy, certainly; and mystery too. According to Kandinsky, The power of profound meaning is found in blue . . . Blue is the typical heavenly colour. The ultimate feeling it creates is one of rest. When it sinks almost to black, it echoes a grief that is hardly human. 1 Is this grief in the dark sky of the painting that is reputedly van Gogh’s last, Crows Flying over a Cornfield (1890)? Picasso’s Blue Period (1901– 4) coincides with his poverty-stricken years in Paris, when the artist was brooding over the suicide of his close friend Carlos Casagemas. Carl Jung suggested that these cool, bleak portraits of sick, hungry, aged and poor beings bathed in a blue glow represent a mythical journey into hell, where ‘there reigns the blue of night, of moonlight and of water, the Duat blue of the Egyptian underworld’. The Absinthe Drinker ( 1901) and Old Woman (1901), still bearing the influence of Impressionism, are clothed in midnight blues; The Blue Room (1901) and La Vie (1903) have a subdued, shadowy cast.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 4633-4643). Random House. Kindle Edition.

But there are exuberant blues too, as Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne is among the first paintings to proclaim. The dress of Henri Matisse’s Lady in Blue (1937) leaves little room in the frame for the accompanying primaries (Clyfford Still’s 1953 (1953) leaves even less). In The Artist and His Model in the Studio at Le Havre (1929) Raoul Dufy embeds the two figures in a sky-blue room that simply continues the view of sea and sky from the open window. In Matisse’s visionary Blue Nude (1907), the model herself takes on this shade without yielding her vigour. Her angular figure seems to anticipate the totemic Cubist women of Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907 ), who are surrounded in blue like an enfolding sheet.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 4643-4649). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Kandinsky’s affinity for blue took concrete form in 1911 when he and the German painter Franz Marc created an art almanac called Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) – named after a painting by Kandinsky from 1903 that features a blue horseman. Marc pursued the theme with dogged literalness in Blue Horse I (1911 ) and Large Blue Horses (1911). The name of the almanac became attached to a group of artists centred around Marc

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 4649-4655). Random House. Kindle Edition.

blue has always been special; this much should be apparent already. It is the most ancient of synthetic pigments and was venerated in the late Middle Ages as emblematic of divine purity. Yet it did not take its place as a primary colour until centuries after red and yellow. And despite the appearance , around 1704, of a blue pigment representing the first of the modern artificial colours, a lack of accessible, high-quality blues was keenly felt by painters until the early nineteenth century.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 4660-4664). Random House. Kindle Edition.

The problem we face in tracing the importance of blue back to antiquity is that, because it was not clearly recognized as a colour in its own right, the oldest colour terms connoting blue are equivocal. Clearly, blue pigments were available to the first civilizations, including azurite, indigo and Egyptian blue frit. Yet there is no sense, in the Classical literature, of the primary nature of blue. It was regarded as a colour related to black – a kind of grey, if you will. In the fifth century BC, the Greek philosopher Democritus wrote that a colour equivalent to indigo (isatin) can be mixed from black and pale green (chloron, one of Democritus’ four ‘simple’ colours). We can imagine the result of this union and see within it some indication of the casual regard the Greeks had for the integrity of the colour we know as blue.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 4665-4671). Random House. Kindle Edition.

In many surviving fragments of Greek painting blue is used as a darkener, and a distinctly bluish-grey can be obtained by mixing some black charcoal pigments with white . (Indeed, we have seen how artists such as Rubens were still making blues this way two millennia later.) It seems that, rather than dulling the senses to blues, this attitude of ‘blue as dark’ may have heightened the ancients’ ability to detect blueness in melancholy hues.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 4673-4676). Random House. Kindle Edition.

In On Sense and Sensible Objects he identifies deep blue as one of the ‘unmixed’ intermediate colours between light and dark, while his Meteorology lists only red, green and purple as the unmixed colours of the rainbow. The Aristotelian On Colours offers only white and golden yellow as primaries – the colours, it is asserted, of the four elements.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 4679-4682). Random House. Kindle Edition.

All this is not to imply that the ancients had no perception of blue as we know it – of the blue of the sky and sea. There are several Greek words that seem to translate as this hue; one is kuanos, the origin of our ‘cyan’. Yet none of these is equivalent to the English ‘blue’ as a basic colour term – context-independent, in the sense of the classification of Berlin and Kay. It is as if the Greeks got by with terms like our cyan, ultramarine, indigo, navy, sapphire and azure, without having a word to class them together as a single perceptual concept.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 4682-4686). Random House. Kindle Edition.

A classic example, bizarre to us today, is the blurring of the distinction between blue and yellow in the Middle Ages ( see here ).

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 4689-4691). Random House. Kindle Edition.

It is inconceivable that the cost and effort involved in making ultramarine would have been tolerated if the result were not so beautiful to gaze upon. Its hue is that which marks the transition from dusk to night, with a purple tint to enhance its majesty.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 4790-4792). Random House. Kindle Edition.

To the monastic painter, the use of such materials conveyed due reverence . But as artists worked increasingly by private contract with a wealthy patron, the use of ultramarine might be stipulated to emphasize the patron’s own piety and merit, not to mention his wealth and social standing.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 4798-4800). Random House. Kindle Edition.

There is thus a very worldly reason why the mother of Christ is so typically robed in blue – a convention that persisted long after the Renaissance. Yet historians have often sought to justify the choice of blue on symbolic grounds: blue is the ‘heavenly’, spiritual colour, connoting humility or whatever (one does not have to look far to find suitable symbolic correlates for any of the primaries). Johannes Itten, the foremost colour theorist of the Bauhaus art school, suggested that ‘the retiring nature of blue, its meekness and profound faith, are frequently encountered in paintings of the Annunciation. The Virgin, hearkening inward, wears blue.’ 7 Clearly, colour theory risks overlooking the obvious if it does not embrace the substance of colour.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 4803-4809). Random House. Kindle Edition.

fine blues remained a luxury item for painters for hundreds of years. Compared with reds (vermilion, red lead, madder and carmine lakes) and yellows (Indian yellow, gamboge, Naples yellow, orpiment, lead-tin yellow) the choice of blues was very limited. Smalt and blue verditer were cheap options that approximated azurite, but indigo was for centuries the only alternative with a depth of tone comparable to ultramarine. Yet it is a poor substitute, with a greenish tinge that compares ill with ultramarine’s gorgeous purple.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 4854-4858). Random House. Kindle Edition.

There is something poignant in seeing ultramarine, the undisputed queen of pigments in the Middle Ages, relegated to just another off-the-shelf blue in the twentieth century. It is a common trajectory for painting materials: from exotic and illustrious import, with all the mystery of rare spices or incense, to cheap commodity. But maybe this is to take too downbeat a view,

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 4961-4964). Random House. Kindle Edition.

van Gogh’s Sun Flowers commands such high regard – it seems a drab, lacklustre piece, uncharacteristic of the artist. But that is because we are not seeing what the artist painted . Those dirty ochres were once bright; but the pigment (chrome yellow) has degraded over time, and we are left with a shadow of the true painting.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 5045-5047). Random House. Kindle Edition.

a picture is never finished. No artist has ever painted an image frozen in time; all painting is a perpetual process, every scene is destined to rearrange its tonal contrasts as time does its work on the pigments. When John Ruskin said, ‘Every hue throughout your work is altered by every touch that you add in other places,’ he might have added, ‘and all that happens subsequently ’.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 5050-5056). Random House. Kindle Edition.

we should not take too much on trust in our visual appreciation of art. What we see is what we get, but not necessarily what we were meant to get.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 5067-5068). Random House. Kindle Edition.

You will soon begin to appreciate that no critical analysis of paintings should be undertaken without a sound knowledge of how colours age.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 5075-5076). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Analysing an artist’s painting technique is generally a matter of close inspection of how the pigment has been applied to the canvas. Sometimes a great deal can be deduced simply from photographing the painting under strong light skimming across the surface at a low angle: so-called raking light. Like sunlight streaming over the fields just before sunset, this produces exaggerated shadows, highlighting the relief of the paint surface ( Figure 11.2 ). A picture that appears under normal light to be a flat film of paint can then suddenly become a terrain of hills and valleys, showing where the brush has been wielded with long, sweeping gestures or short dabs. The energy of the brushwork leaps into view, almost alarmingly so in van Gogh’s wild visions. We can see where modern ‘Hard Edge’ painters have used masking tape, revealed by the raised ridges this leaves behind in the paint.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 5202-5209). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Figure 11.2 Illuminating a painting by oblique (raking) light reveals the pattern and style of brushwork. Shown here is Camille Pissarro’s Côte des Bœufs at L’Hermitage (1877).

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 5218-5221). Random House. Kindle Edition.

According to John Gage, the limitations of colour reproduction technology are ‘themselves part of the history of colour in art’.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 5439-5440). Random House. Kindle Edition.

We now have a completely new way of accessing and displaying information, and it requires no great foresight to predict that many (if not all) of the roles of books will be displaced by the computer in the next few decades. How these changes will affect the quality of art reproduction is in part a question of physics and electronic engineering, but this too is ultimately delimited by the chemistry behind the glowing colours of the monitor screen.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 5449-5452). Random House. Kindle Edition.

No great digital painter has emerged so far to rival those who deal in messy stuff squeezed from tubes, but the electronic visionaries have after all had their paintboxes for barely twenty years.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 5957-5958). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Colours win you over more and more. A certain blue enters your soul. A certain red has an effect on your blood pressure. A certain colour tones you up. It’s the concentration of timbres. A new era is opening. Henri Matisse

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 6001-6004). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Matisse felt, like Cézanne, that it is the relationship between the colours, not the forms, of a painting that gives it its structure: ‘Composition is the art of arranging in a decorative manner the various elements at the painter’s disposal for the expression of his feeling . . . The chief aim of colour should be to serve expression as well as possible.’ 3 This expressiveness, he believed, could not be planned from ‘theories’ of colour use, but must flow directly from the sensitivity of the artist: ‘My choice of colours does not rest on any scientific theory; it is based on observation, on feeling, on the very nature of each experience . . . I merely try to find a colour that will fit my sensation.’

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 6046-6052). Random House. Kindle Edition.

Nothing better captures the sheer exuberance that colour instils than Klee’s recollections of the fantastic chromatic visions he found amidst the Arabic culture of Tunisia in 1914, which inspired him to joyous epiphany: ‘Colour has taken hold of me; no longer do I have to chase after it. I know that it has hold of me for ever. That is the significance of this blessed moment. Colour and I are one.’

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 6165-6167). Random House. Kindle Edition.

He called colour ‘the most relative medium in art’, liable to change with its context.

Ball, Philip (2012-08-31). Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour (Kindle Locations 6216-6217). Random House. Kindle Edition.

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