Progressing Through Color

by Danielle Humphrey

The first color in this collection is red, represented by the painting “Lucretia Borgia Reigns in the Vatican in the Absence of Pope Alexander VI” by Frank Cadogan Cowper. The scene takes place in the Vatican where it is traditional for the Cardinals to wear red. The ******* color of their clothing brings out the other hues of red in the room as well as golden details on the walls and ceiling. Cadogan most likely painted this room exactly as he saw it, but perhaps he added more red undertones to give the piece an overall dominant color.

“Melancholy” by Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas contains the next color, red-orange. The painting is a portrait of an unidentifiable woman curled ** in a chair. While it seems that her red-orange dress does not fit the title of the painting, the color gives a feeling of anxiety more than depression. Combined with her ****** expression and body language, red orange goes well with the piece. It is a very untypical way of displaying sadness. In addition, the color makes this woman more relatable. The audience can understand the feeling this woman is having, making the painting much more intimate.

While it is subtler than other pieces of the collection, “Fishing: Bottom Fishing” by William Jones has orange as its dominant color. In this case, Jones was most likely painting the feeling of the scene before him rather than what was really there. The different shades of orange mixed with the greens give this piece a very warm feel. It reminds the audience of a relaxing day in autumn.

“Forest Lane near Schärfling” by Emil Jakob Schindler contains beautiful, yellow-orange tones. Schindler termed this painting as “poetic realism,” as he pursued to paint scenes representative of feelings. The yellow and oranges of the golden light peek out from behind the trees, alluding to something even more enchanting around the bend. Mixed with the greens of the trees, this scene is an idealistic vision of the forest as the sun is about to set.

One of the more popular pieces in the collection, “Sunflowers” by Vincent van Gogh has yellow as the dominant color. Van Gogh painted a total of five versions of these flowers to decorate the “Yellow House” in Aries, his studio and home. What makes this piece so interesting is that there is no definite feeling to it. The sunflowers are wilting in their pot and the yellow hues are dulled. Yet, because it is an overall yellow piece and it contains flowers, a viewer is most likely to think of happiness first. After looking at it for a while though, one can begin to understand how van Gogh must have felt while painting this piece. Perhaps he wanted the audience to understand that not everything that is stereotyped as beautiful is actually beautiful. In this sense, the yellows are misleading.

Similar to “Fishing: Bottom Fishing”, “A Grotto in the Gulf of Salerno, Sunset” by Joseph Wright of Derby has a subtle, yellow-green tone. Most of this color can be found towards the opening of the cave. The fact that the light pouring in is such an odd color raises the question of what the cave would look like completely illuminated. Perhaps it is just a combination of the light with the water in an enclosed space, but it is **** to know for sure. Regardless, Wright’s use of light and shadows demonstrates his excellent work in directing the audience to the focal point of the piece: the cave opening.

While it is stereotypical to represent the color green through nature, “Study of Pink Hollyhocks in Sunlight, from Nature” by John La Farge contains very beautiful and elegant hues of the color. Since it was done in watercolor, the piece has a delicate yet wild feel to it. Instead of capturing the flowers as still life, La Farge painted them as if they were growing in nature. The whites and reds of the petals, as well as the blue-washed background, really make the green leaves pop while still maintaining a graceful impression.

At first glance, “Blue Reflections” by Kazuo Nakamura looks like a big chunk of blue-green paint on a canvas. However, a closer look reveals that it is actually a mountain and its reflection in the water. This can be seen through the differentiating brush strokes: the mountain’s are rough sideways lines while the water’s are smooth downward strokes. While it does not initially seem like a mountain, the form and calmness of the blue-greens give the same vibe that a traditional mountainous scene would.

The vibrancy of the blues in “Abstraction (the Blue Mountain)” by Christian Rohifs is certainly eye-catching. Though, unlike “Blue Reflections”, this piece is less of a mountain and more of an abstract piece. Instead of subject matter, Rohifs concentrated more on color. He also concentrated on surface, which is why the piece was not painted flat and even like other pieces in this collection. Instead, the brush strokes have a lot of texture. The bright blue is what captures the audience’s attention, drawing them in to see what the piece is all about. The added yellows and reds as well as a slight gradation in the blues create a dimensionality in the piece. It is truly a unique approach to painting.

John Singer Sargent painted “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose” in the summer at dusk, hence the blue-violet tone. Sargent really liked the way the light look at this time of the day, hence why this piece is painted in an Impressionist manner. He did an excellent job doing so; the glowing lanterns combined with the darkened surroundings give this piece a magical ambiance. The colors are gorgeously painted, especially the light purple dresses in front of a dark teal background. Overall, the piece has a quiet tone but is still very beautiful.

Szinyei Merse’s “Lady in Violet” has the dominant color of violet. Obviously, this color is seen through the woman’s dress. However, what makes the violet so interesting to look at is the contrast with the surroundings. The background and even some of the foreground have very light colors, while the violet dress is more dark and rich. Regardless, this contrast works extremely well, as the dress makes the woman in the piece looks very distinguished yet one with nature.

The final piece of this collection contains a dominant color of red-violet. “The Purple Wind 1” by Choi, Hyo Soon is very surrealistic with a lot of emphasis on the two frontal figures. The vibrancy of the flower draws the viewer in, who is then directed towards the cat by the curves of the butterflies. From there, the piece continues in a circle. The green grass and dulled blue background add an extra pop to the red-violet flower. It almost seems like it is trying to win over the viewer’s attention from the rest of the piece. Though “The Purple Wind 1” is a little strange, it is interesting to look at and the colors are very pleasing to the eye.

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