Updated: Nov 15, 2022
What does colour do? It attracts our attention. We are often drawn to particular colours. This is also true in the natural world: animals, insects and birds are attracted by colour, using it both as a defence and as part of their courtship rituals.
Did you know that the artist Mondrian disliked the colour green? There are all sorts of theories as to why, including a period when his abstract paintings weren’t selling. He resorted to flower paintings which he didn’t enjoy so, from then on, decided to eliminate natural greens.
Personal taste draws us to different colours. Some people like a muted colour palette, others the zing of complementary colours. As part of a photographic course recently we were asked to focus on one colour, and I took a series of photographs always including the colour I chose. Try it! It was an interesting challenge which I found helpful. In my case the colour was orange.
If you have time, take a look at the fascinating BBC documentary about 3 colours which is now on YouTube; it explores blue, gold and white throughout art history: BBC History of Art in Three Colours
It is well-known that Picasso had his ‘blue period’ and Van Gogh was drawn to strong yellows and blues, whereas Hammershoi favoured a muted, almost monochrome palette. Could this be related to the cooler light of Denmark where Hammershoi lived? How much does our environment affect our relationship with colour?
The same applies to photography. It can be the colour, the contrasts or the shape which first captures our imagination so that we know we want to explore further with our camera.
Love of colour, whether dazzling or restrained, is part of being human and permeates our lives.