CT&D #6. The Formal Element of Art: Color

One of the formal elements of art is color. Based on supplemental reading excerpts from Henri Matisse and Wassily Kandinsky, compare and contrast these two modern artists’ ideas about color and uses of color. What are your thoughts?

After reading about both Matisse’s and Kandinsky’s excerpts on color, I can definitely say that each of their views on color and its uses are interesting to observe as well as compare and contrast to. Starting with Matisse, I learned that he associates colors with feelings; if he was to paint or draw an image of a certain environment or concept (like a season) only his mood towards it is translated to art.

In other words, Matisse does not draw upon on or remember what traditional colors are usually associated with in a given environment; it is only personal experiences that influence his choice in colors and even their tones. I happen to somewhat agree with this because if one was to envision winter in a work of art, my usage of color based on my feelings would be totally different from someone living in the tundra where winter’s harshness would compel one to colorfully evoke winter as dark and miserable.

Additionally, Matisse states that he is “forced into interpreting nature” as it represents character in truthfulness (tying into the previous discussion, “is art a lie?”). Here, Matisse says that there should be a “living harmony of colors” based on his observation that some of the lesser prominent colors in a work of art are still present but are hard to be seen as a result of their blending with the background. I also somewhat agree with this because in looking at the color spectrum, an image with a diverse amount of color has to feature every one of its kind (whether that a given color is blended with another, or if it is in lighter contrast than the other, etc.)

Kandinsky in one sense, is similar to Matisse regarding his views on the feelings of color. However, his approach is very different. Kandinsky claims that the more used to we get towards seeing and living with a certain color, the more we identify with it; sometimes through experience. He goes on to elaborate that if one has had an experience with associating a given color with an emotion (i.e. the color of red / orange on a hot object which thereby causes pain to be felt from, to reiterate from a previous discussion), one can ultimately “sense” color and appropriately apply it to a theme drawn from one’s soul.

Furthermore and speaking of souls, Kandinsky asserts “color is the means of exerting a direct influence over the soul;” what he means by this is that one’s feelings and mood can be drawn from pairing associated colors with a given object (i.e. the color of a toy will always capture the attention of a kid through evoking excitement). Some colors can be further defined through tone, shade and physique (smooth or rough, sharp or not) in which the latter can be compared to in everyday life as we can feel an object physically. This metric as a result, helps in allowing us to identify locations, possessions, experiences, etc. with exact color, often expressed in memory.

Overall, I like the views of each artist on their interpretation of color. Most of all, I like how the artists fully acknowledge the presence of all colors in the spectrum by trying to relate it to the real world (Kandinsky) and observing that in almost any case, all colors are present (Matisse). Having all colors present in any object or environment seems to make sense since colors are the reflection of an object according to English scientist Sir Isaac Newton. Therefore, if an object or environment shows certain colors more prominently than others, the latter doesn’t necessarily equate to the absence of what we think is missing, at least that’s what I think.

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