Reinventing the (colour) wheel

colorIf you are a little jaded with the grey skies of London, try a visit to the Making Colour exhibition, showing at the National Gallery this summer.

Deep in basement darkness, we are reminded of how to see colour as the layout focuses on the discovery and development of pigments through the centuries. Each room considers a single colour, looking at how artists have painted according to  available hues; astonishing palettes derived from limited offerings derived from ground up minerals, sea creatures and insects, suspended in either oil or egg yolk. Fascinating representations of textiles – the pile of velvet, the sheen of silk. Understanding how the colour was made enhances our appreciation of the appearance of the delicate skin tones in frescos, (faces under painted in green earth, then overlaid with pinks), the rendering of silver from black and white, and the appearance of gold from yellows. We are given a reminder of how time fades organic pigments, and changes how we see today, a different image to that originally created by the artist; red lake in particular fading from its mix with blue, so that originally vivid purples fade to grey. Modern synthetic paints in tubes subtly transformed artistic licence – allowing the impressionists to create their dreamy mixes with ease.

Making Colour is illustrated with examples from the National Gallery’s fabulous collection – including some of my favourite Pre-Raphaelite works.

Go and be inspired – think about all the different shades of red and how to see the colours in clouds.

harris colour wheel card