Colors in Art
Artists see the world with eyes gifted with divine sensitivity. Somehow they’re able to capture all the senses onto a single canvas, enshrining the myriad qualities of colors in homage to sublime creativity. Whoever created the world passed on the power to create to these artists, who manage to retain the purity of the world no matter how much destruction falls to the ground around them. And it is through their eyes that we see their vision of perfection; be it ideal emotion, supreme beauty, or even a perfect portrayal of destruction. Acknowledging all this also means the true discoverers of color remain the artists who, over the centuries, flouted their discoveries of design and technique in the eyes of the world.
Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) was a maestro of color, as can be seen in the works he left behind to a world that would one day come to revere him; despite its indifference to him at that time. This man decided to fling convention away, and soon immersed himself into the study of impressionism. Impressionism is an art form characterized by short broken brushstrokes used to create texture and depth. Interestingly, Van Gogh became deeply experimental with the color theory, and from his earlier paintings in dark analogous colors, he decided to move on to the use of brazen color combinations of complementary colors. He used these to give his paintings the energy he saw in colors and to give his artwork tangible emotion. While living in Montmartre, France, Van Gogh painted a landscape titled “The Vegetable Garden and the Moulin de Blute-Fin on Montmartre.” This painting is the epitome of the color theory principle that suggests complementary colors can be juxtaposed to highlight contrast and display vibrancy, with the artist placing yellow and purple, orange and blue, and green and red next to each other. Van Gogh was also inspired the Japanese art style of woodblock prints, as it too idolized the use of bright colors. He used the concept of intemperate color use and radical brushstrokes in his design and painting backgrounds. The artist also favored pure colors, that is, the use of the primary and secondary colors untainted and unstinted by other shades. What the artist wished to achieve by all of this was simple—what he saw evoked a vivid spark in him that he could not evoke in the millions merely by painting what he saw, but by painting what he felt on seeing the scene. He wished to awaken the world to colors by pushing them into its face, as it seemed to him as if that face could not awake otherwise.
“Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.”
Pablo Picasso [Spanish painter and sculptor, 1881-1973] Trans. in Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Picasso: Fifty Years of His Art (1946). Conversation avec Picasso, vol. 10, no. 10, Cahiers d’Art (Paris, 1935)
Another artist who was termed “revolutionary;” Pablo Picasso is the artist who floored the world by his movements in cubism, realism and abstract foundations of “modern art.” Interestingly, Picasso classified colors into the emotional themes of his painting; so that all the morose paintings are done in cooler shades while his later more energetic paintings use warm colors. As a result, the artist’s work is demarcated into those done in the “Blue Period” and those done in the “Rose Period.” His paintings use the two halves of the color wheel to give an aura made visible to all, and he too painted the world according to its inner characteristics, not its outer, visible characteristics. This is why many art critics find his portrayal of the world as vague combinations of scattered lines and colors; while others admire his ability to visualize the abstract so thoroughly.
Henri Matisse (1869-1954) used bright colors as well—and was another man who was beyond the comprehension of people of his time. His paintings are invigorating, sensual and ecstatic; they form a canvas of color potency in its superlative existence. The bright colors drown the immortal audience of this mastermind, who flung away subtle visions of paradise and turned them into thriving arrays of thrumming rhythm. His passion for existence is what made his artwork into a living, breathing persona, and it was also clearly visible in his restless complexion and craving for tense activity.
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