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Denise van Herwijnen/ Essay COP/ april 2018 HOW DO YOU ACHIEVE COLOUR HARMONY IN A PAINTING?

Van Gogh- Cafe Terrace at Night The first thing that catches your eye in this painting are the bright colors, the colors are very pleasant or harmonious. Van Gogh was a master in colors. How did he and other painters create color harmony in their paintings? In this essay I want to find out what color harmony is and how to achieve color harmony. CONTENT 1. 2. 3. 4.

The Colour wheel Examples of color harmony in paintings Conclusion References

1. THE COLOR WHEEL The color wheel is one of the basic tools used in analysis and discussion of color. The three primary colors are red, blue and yellow. Then there are the secondary colors which are produced by mixing the primaries. Thus, blue and yellow produces green; red and yellow produces orange; red and blue produces violet.

The colors that are opposite to each other in the color wheel are called complementary colors and the colors that are one-third of the circle away from each other on the color wheel are called dissonant or discordant colors.

2. EXAMPLES OF COLOR HARMONY IN PAINTINGS ´Why do two colors, put one next to the other, sing?´- Pablo Picasso The best way to find out more about color harmony is by having a look at paintings of some masters in color like Van Gogh, Kandinsky, David Hockney, Franz Marc, Matisse and Cezanne. Many of Van Gogh´s painting´color schemes are based on complementary colors. These are two colors that are opposite to each other on the color wheel. They have the unique characteristics of balancing each other. Van Gogh knew that juxtaposing two opposing, contrasting colors will make a vibrant and expressive painting. The main colors that Van Gogh used in his painting ´Cafe Terrace at Night´ are different hues of blue and orange. These colors are complementary. Furthermore, Van Gogh relied on color schemes based on analogous colors. These colors are related to each other and lie next to each other on the color circle. You should select gradual steps of tone and color intensity between the colors- the greater the contrast, the bolder and more visually exciting the resulting scheme. He balances and unified the painting´s composition by using the related colors yellow, green and orange. These analogous colors are in harmony with those bright and complementary colors of blues and oranges. In his painting with the sunflowers Van Gogh used a one- hue harmony. One- hue harmony combines colors derived from a single hue. To create a balanced color scheme you can choose to take two or more related colors, this may be tints or shades of the same hue, or adjacent colors in the same area of the color wheel. Choosing tints of the same hue, will have a unifying effect.

Van Gogh- Sunflowers

David Hockney creates harmony in his paintings by using as well related colors. In his poster ´Road Across the Wolds´ he used the related colors yellow, green and orange. Furthermore, he used the one-hue harmony: the earth colors like brown, gold and terracotta are juxtaposed with the many hues of green.

David Hockney- ´Road Across the Wolds´

Another way to create harmony is to use contrast harmony. Then, you choose at least one complementary contrasting color, then, the contrasting color acts as a balancing and harmonizing force and should be lighter or darer than the main color scheme. It´s the best to use complementary hues in small amounts, to pick out attractive details. Franz Marc used contrast harmony in his painting ´the large blue horses´. He used a great amount of blue which is in balance with the red part. Red is a very strong color that´s why you should use it best in small amounts. Franz Marc decided to use a quite full- blooded version of cold and warm

color pairs that´s why he chose to separate them with the neutral color grey. Another possibility to tone down one color is to use a related color or another neutral color such as beige, cream or white. Or you can use these colors on their own to create a subtle, soft and relaxing affect. To achieve success you should also remember to vary the amounts and strengths of the complementary colors, cause although blues are cooler than reds, some blues are warmer than others. For example, when blue is mixed with red it becomes warmer. If mixed with green it becomes colder.

Franz Marc- ´The large blue horses´

In comparison to Franz Marc´s painting Cezanne chose to use red in a small amount in his painting `Still life with seven apples´. The red apple is in contrast to, and in balance with, the colors surroundings them. Cezanne- ´Still life with seven apples´

It is not only the way the colors are arranged but also a number of their qualities that affect the atmosphere and their color harmony. These includes how dark or light they are, their hue and their saturation. An important aspect that relates to this aspect is the Munsell color tree, a threedimensional model based on three color dimensions: hue, value and color purity. A horizontal circle around the axis of the sphere contains all the hues, equal in brightness and saturation. A vertical line combines colors that differ only in brightness. Munsell suggested that ´the center of the sphere is the natural balancing point for all colors´. This meant that two complementary hues could be combined in such a way that the greater brightness of the one would be compensated by the lower brightness of the other. Mussel also recognized the influence of size, and suggested that large surfaces should have subdued colors whereas highly saturated colors should be used only in small patches. You also have to keep in mind that the appearance and expression of a color are modified by the subject matter. A given red is not the same color when applied to a puddle of blood, a face, a horse, a sky, or a tree.


Kandinsky used lots of different colors in his painting. He used the principles of contrast harmony. He used lots of different hues in such a way that he toned down some of the colors. He combined some hues with greater brightness with some with lower brightness. 3. CONCLUSION When a painting produce color combinations in which all values readily and pleasantly blend which each other, you can speak of color harmony. It is possible to create color harmony in different ways. You can choose to combine different hues of one color, this is called one-hue harmony. Van Gogh used this harmony in his painting with the sunflowers. Another way to create color harmony is to combine related colors that lie nest to each other on the color circle. Van Gogh and David Hockney used this kind of harmony by using the colors green, yellow and orange in their paintings. Furthermore, you can choose to combine complementary color pairs but then you have to keep in mind the amount of the complementary color because some colors like red have a stronger appearance than others.



The complete book of colour by Suzy Chiazzari All About techniques in colour by Paragon Ediciones Colourpower by Philippa Merivale The Colour Eye by Robert Cumming and Tom Porter Art and Visual Perception by Rudolf Arnheim

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