Thursday, October 9, 2014

Principles of Modernism: Freeing Color

Jacques Louis David
Cupid and Psyche, 1817

Color defines form. A skilled painter like David uses
lush shades of red and orange to give the illusion of flesh and fabric.

Modernists believed that color must be freed
from that service.

Henri Matisse 
Woman with a Hat, 1905

Matisse's painting scandalized the art world.
Color was doing very little work here in defining form and image.
Matisse seemed to be celebrating color for itself.
Why was her nose green?

Wassily Kandinsky
Squares with Concentric Circles, 1913

The next step was abandoning image for abstract shape.

Josef Albers
Homage to the Square, 1959

And then it was a slippery slope to abandoning everything but color.

Barnett Newman
Concord, 1949

Mark Rothko
Orange and Yellow, 1956

Helen Frankenthaler
Bilbao, 1979

Louis Morris,
 Number 99, 1960

These abstractionists from the mid-20th-century were known as color field painters.

Ad Reinhardt
Black Paintings from the 1960s

And then abandoning color....

Color, once freed, left the building.


  1. your perspective, and love the references to art. So tjought provoking!

  2. Love the humor - art with a light touch - love it.

  3. A friend recommended your blog to me the other day, and I'm so glad she did - it's an absolute joy to read. Thank you!

  4. Although colour had already left Russia some decades before! Great blog, really love browsing around, thank you!