Color is arguably the most important aspect in a work of art, as it can cause a viewer to stop and look more closely and elicit an emotional response. Throughout history, artists have employed color in various ways and to create various moods. Even works of art with similar color schemes can come across very differently.
For example, Moonrise Over the Sea by Casper David Friedrich feels calm and quiet with its cool color scheme of purples and blues. However, The Isle of the Dead by Arnold Bocklin feels calm in a disquieting and ominous sort of way, despite the similar color scheme.
Even works of art that have similar subject matter and similar color schemes can come across very differently to a viewer. Van Gogh’s Basket of Pansies and Cezanne’s Still Life with Flowers and Fruit both employ primarily blues and greens, yet van Gogh’s work feels uneasy while Cezanne’s feels calm. Additionally, Turner uses color in a way contradictory to what a viewer might expect. In A Disaster at Sea he uses oranges and yellows to create a very tense and turbulent atmosphere. This is contrary to how yellows and other bright colors are typically used; to portray scenes that are happy and carefree.
I also noticed as I was creating this gallery that a few artists are repeated: JMW Turner, Vincent van Gogh, and Paul Cezanne all have multiple works in this gallery. While Turner and Cezanne focused mostly on warm oranges and cool greens/blues respectively, van Gogh’s works permeate every corner of the color wheel.
From the realistic approach of Sebastiano del Piombo in his portrait of Pope Clement VII to the abstraction of a cathedral by Frantisek Kupka, color is employed purposefully and for specific effect. For this reason, it is important for artists to have a strong background in color theory, or else their color choices could appear haphazard without purpose. The variety of uses of color in this gallery demonstrates that the possibilities of color are truly endless.