Sunday, January 16, 2011

24. Early History of Color Analysis

German philosopher, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe got the ball rolling in 1810 when he published his Theory of Colours.  It was later published in English.  Goethe made an exhaustive scientific study of color which he considered to be his most important work in his prolific career. He did not venture into applying his color theory to the ehnancement of personal appearance.

The first actual “color and image consultant” was Michel Eugene Chevreul (1786–1889). He was Director of a tapestry business and, of course, color was of paramount importance to him.  He made the curious discovery that colors could have one impact when placed side-by-side, and another entirely when viewed alone.  For example, he contracted to create a colorful tapestry for a client that would incorporate the exact same shade of yellow as her curtains, which were a solid color.  Chevreul wove a yellow matching the curtains into the tapestry, but when finished, the yellow looked very different woven in amongst other colors. The viewer's perception of the yellow in the carpet had been influenced or manipulated by the other colors alongside it.

He made another curious discovery.  When looking at any particular color, the human eye wants to view the complementary color also.  The complementary color is found on the opposite side of the color wheel.   The eye seems to have a precise equilibrium, so that when looking at red, for example, the eye generates green, even though we are not aware of it. He called this phenomenon Simultaneous Contrast. In 1839, Chevreul published  “Of the Law of Simultaneous Contrast of Colors."  Chevreul wrote a chapter on clothing and hair color for this book.   In this chapter he declared  that any color worn next to the face, including hair color, would affect the appearance of the skin's color.

French Impressionists painters were greatly influenced by Chevreul’s book, and incorporated his teaching into their artwork.  Then two German artists and art educators further enlightened people on the principles of simultaneous contrast.  Johannes Itten published The Art of Color in 1961, and Josef Albers published Interaction of Color in 1963.

It was Itten who first suggested a natural correspondence between the four seasons of the year and four groups of naturally harmonious colors. In the 1980s others then took this information and created the “seasonal” color analysis palettes that became quite popular, very quickly.

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