Friday, January 6, 2012


Bright accent fruit at the Luxembourg Garden,Paris
 In a few weeks, I'll be leading a class on Identifying your Palette and so color has been on my mind.  There was a bit of serendipitous luck on our recent trip to Europe, because color and thinking about color were everywhere. We went to Nancy, where Art Nouveau has roots. Coming up later this month, that city will host a week-long, multi-disciplinary symposium on color with both scientific and artistic approaches represented. Bookstores featured books on color theory and symbolism. Color seems to be on the European mind these days.

        But the biggest break came when we visited the Kunstmuseum Basel.  On display was an exhibit of Josef Albers, whose career was focused on the interaction of color (he wrote the book!) The art museum in Basel is extraordinary, with a great collection of works by Klee, Chagall, Picasso and earlier artists such as Holbein. Reflecting on our visit to the museum, it occurred to me that color was the major lesson. Each artist had a palette--and here I'm remembering that Mondrian was on display as well. Are you thinking primary colors right now? Chagall favored jewel-toned colors (there were a few green faces.) Picasso had his blue period. Klee struggled with color early on, yet now it is perhaps his use of color that attracts us to his work. Josef Albers studied at the Weimar Bauhaus, where Klee taught. He later headed up stained-glass workshop. After the Bauhaus closed, Albers came to the United States to work at the newly founded Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina. Most of the work on display is part of his Homages to the Square, a project that carried Albers from 1950 to his death in l976.  Essentially, Albers is playing with color. There is nothing particularly scientific about it.  In fact, the colors he chose seem very subjective to me and a lot of fun. It made me itchy to paint, as did the whole collection at Basel.

 My reflection on the work at the museum confirmed my original idea about guiding people to consciously explore their color preferences.  I do not believe we should simply adopt someone or anyone else's palette, mainly because we can not help but see subjectively. Even if we learn another's palette, we will by necessity apply it according to our vision.  Are you interested in thinking about this?  Come join one of the Identifying your Palette sessions at the Lexington Art Academy, January 24th or 25th. For more information and registration, please go to:

Aligned megaliths at Carnac, Brittany

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