Artists use color, along with lines, forms, patterns, textures, compositions, and processes to create effective and meaningful art. A painting may convey its entire meaning through its color alone. Artistic color is an interesting subject worth exploring. Perhaps you have noticed that different colors impact your emotions in either a conscious or unconscious manner. If you are looking at a bright red painting, you will be affected differently than if you are looking at a cool blue painting.
A master artist and his relationship with color can provide a lifetime of knowledge. The power of color is revealed to us through the eyes of great artists as we explore their deep passions, inescapable obsessions, and steadfast beliefs about its importance. This article presents some of the most famous examples of color in art from renowned artists throughout history.
What is Color in Art
Objectively, color is the perception of light as it is reflected back and forth from an object. On the other hand, color has a host of attributes that are primarily subjective in art design. For instance, one can consider the concept of harmony in the use of color. There are two types of responses that a person will experience when two or more colors are combined and produce a satisfying feeling; and temperature. Depending on whether a blue leans toward purple or green and whether a red leans towards yellow or blue, the color is considered warm or cool.
Therefore, color is an objective phenomenon, human response to a hue arising partly from the optic nerve, and partly from education and exposure to color. Perhaps most importantly, color is simply a perception of the world.
Examples of Color in Art
Nature’s colors fascinated many artists throughout history. We could notice their deep passion, unexplainable emotions, and strong belief in the power of colors in their masterpieces. Below are a few of their examples of color in art.
Claude Monet’s Artwork:
Claude Monet is considered one of the most renowned Impressionist artists. His works reflect the simple, intuitive sense of seeing, thinking, and feeling he showed with a group of young artists around 1860. Compared to their Realist predecessors, it was a dramatic departure. In addition to depicting historical and mythological scenes, Claude Monet and his peers were mainly interested in painting landscapes and contemporary life.
When we examine Monet’s paintings closely, we can see his emphasis on capturing the ephemeral effects of natural light. He often used soft, glowing colors on his paintings, which conveyed an intimate feeling to the viewers.
Throughout his career, he often drew natural scenes in analogous colors. One of the most captivating examples is the “Water Lilly” series. Using its soft blues and greens, with a touch of pink and cream, the painting “Water Lillies” was created in 1908. By smoothly transitioning between analogous colors, a sense of calm and gentleness is created.
An orange, yellow, green, and purple rectangular color scheme dominates the poplars painting by Monet above. But purple is a very weak color, used mostly as a secondary color to complement the more powerful colors green, yellow, and orange.
2. Regatta At Argenteuil, 1872
Claude Monet used a split-complementary color scheme in this painting, where orange contrasts against green and blue. In split complementary color schemes, a primary color is paired with two secondary colors. This scheme uses two complementary colors, but one of them is split.
3. Morning on the Seine, 1897
Above is an example of a painting with almost monochrome colors, which has mostly varying shades of blue. However, there are a few hue variations. One color is used in a monochromatic color scheme at varying saturations and values. Many oil artists build color over a monochromatic layer in oil painting. With this method, multiple colors do not need to be considered when establishing the value structure.
4. Sunset On The Seine In Winter, 1880
This is an analogous warm color scheme that mostly uses colors of red, orange, and black.
5. Water Lillies, 1908
6. Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge, 1897–99
7. Water Lillies, 1915
8. Harmony in Blue, 1893
9. Water Lilies, 1914-17
Van Gogh’s Artwork:
Vincent Van Gogh was a pioneer of the Post-Impressionism movement known for his bold use of color. The colors yellow and blue appear most frequently in nature, and they also bring him fond memories of childhood and the Netherlands. He used them in almost all of his paintings with various nuances, tints, and tones. Further analysis of Van Gogh’s works reveals how he enlivened the visual effect of simultaneous contrast by utilizing complementary colors and the color wheel.
10. Café Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles, 1888
For instance, take a look at the painting “Café Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles” (1888). The painting of Monet, however, always achieves harmony and peace from every angle. With the use of complementary colors, Van Gogh aimed to move the viewer’s eye around the painting, not only by using visual composition.
There is a strong saturation of yellow right next to an ultramarine blue, which causes an effect of shimmering and gives an effect of glow to the evening light.
11. The Paris Sunflowers, 1887
Besides the orange for the flowers, van Gogh used a dull blue background for his sunflower painting. A complementary color is the reciprocal of its complementary opposite. There is a striking visual contrast between the two when they are placed next to each other. Overuse of this technique may make your painting unappealing. Choosing a dominant color and adding an accent color is recommended.
12. A Field Of Yellow Flowers, 1889
A similar color scheme of yellows and greens is used by Vincent van Gogh in his flower painting. Vincent also clearly highlighted the flowers with lines.
13. Wheatfield with Crows, 1890
14. The Painter on the Road to Tarascon, 1888
Helen Frankenthaler’s Artwork:
In the 1970s, Helen Frankenthaler helped create the “Color Field” movement, which is now known as the new generation of abstract art. Frankenthaler’s use of color kept evolving throughout her career as Frankenthaler explored different color palettes all the time. The great American painter Frankenthaler also used colors that were inspired by nature when painting nature.
15. The Bay, 1963
For instance, “The Bay” (1963) is one of her most celebrated works. From the title, it is clear what the theme is. However, we might wonder as viewers: What kind of bay area is this supposed to refer to? What does the blue mass represent? How far away could this be? In capturing nature with innovative and abstract forms, Frankenthaler utilized modulated hues and left a lot of room for imagination.
16. Flood, 1967
Other Artist’s Examples of Color in Art:
17. Painting by J.M.W. Turner
Known for his vivid colorization and stunning sunlit seascapes, J M W Turner is one of the greatest British Romantic painters and printmakers of all time. Turner was particularly fond of the yellow hue.
18. Fisherwoman, 1913
John Singer Sargent’s color scheme pictured above is a more subtle combination of blue and orange. Bluewater complements oranges on the subject and shore.
19. Rocks, 1907
As you can see from Childe Hassam’s painting, complementary colors can look sophisticated. Hassam created so much interest with so few colors by using directional brushwork, broken colors, and value contrast.
20. Les toits de Collioure, 1905
Studies show that hidden meanings in colors can have a significant impact on our mental health. It is easy to relax and feel good when we are surrounded by certain colors. Colors allow us to express our individuality and flair through art and design. We’ve been using color to enhance our environments for years, whether as advertisers, graphic designers, interior decorators, or artists. The use of color can create a certain mood in the viewer or evoke a sharp response from them. As we can see from examples of colors in art, we can use colors to communicate an important message subtly.