The Theory of Colour in Science and Art

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"According to basic colour theory, "Colour choices are subjective. Artists choose colours based on design, aesthetic or emotional responses." It is commonplace to make references to colour when referring to human behaviour, for example, ‘telling white lies’, and ‘caught red handed’, as these word associations immediately conjure up a picture in the mind. Humans live in a world where they are bombarded with colours. Nature itself is generally gentle on the eye unless it is giving out a variety of warnings to the relevant species. It has been left to artists and designers to capture our attention, by using colour in a variety of ways. This has resulted in changes in fashion throughout history, often depending on the current scientific research of the relevant period.

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) carried out a great deal of research into colour theory. According to Birren, "In the development of method and order in colour, Newton stands as the first man ever to conceive an organised colour circle." [Birren,p.24] This was however, related to the properties of light and not pigment. Goethe in direct opposition to Newton tried to revive the theories of Aristotle, that colours were manifestations of light and dark. He correctly referred to physiological colours being linked to certain material mediums, and he said of himself, "I am the only person who knows the truth in the difficult science of colours, of that, I say, I am not a little proud."

The Theory of Colour in Science and Art

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