A history of colour in European art

Course Dates: 11/01/24 - 15/02/24
Time: 14:00 - 16:00
Location: Keeley Street
Colour is one of the most pervasive elements in art but one that is rarely the subject of art historical discussion. We explore the part colour played in artistic developments, technical skill and material, as well as colour theory.
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Full fee £149.00 Senior fee £119.00 Concession £97.00

Course Code: VB764

Thu, day, 11 Jan - 15 Feb '24

Duration: 6 sessions (over 6 weeks)

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What is the course about?

Colour is one of the most pervasive elements in art but one that is rarely the subject of art historical discussion. The course aims to follow on from the course ‘Colour in Medieval Art’ by focusing on developments from the Renaissance to the modern period. In contrast, to the medieval course it will follow a chronological scheme and focus on developments and individual artists of particular significance from the standpoint of colour.

Significant developments to be discussed include: greater naturalism in the use of colour in the Renaissance; chiaroscuro, tenebrism and the Baroque; the colour revolution of the Impressionists; the development of an expressionistic use of colour by Van Gogh and it impact on later art (e.g.German Expressionism); the liberation of colour in the twentieth as exemplified in the work of artists such as Kandinsky, Franz Marc and Matisse; Abstract Expressionism and the colour field painters as exemplified by the work of Rothko; and more recent experimental work such as that of Dan Flavin with coloured fluorescent lights or Yves Klein’s blue paintings.

We explore key colour theories with reference to theorists such as Alberti, Newton, Goethe, Chevreul and Kandinsky. And we also look at developments in technique, such as the adoption of the oil medium with reference to Van Eyck, as well as the discovery of new pigments (e.g.chrome yellow and its impact on the work of Turner) and materials. A particular focus will be on the nineteenth century with the development of new synthetic and portable pigments and their impact on the work of the Pre-Raphaelites and Impressionists will be analysed.

Other factors to be considered include the analogy with music and kinaesthesia with reference, for example, to the work of Whistler and Kandinsky. The course will take into account the most recent research.

What will we cover?

• Absolute colour in early Renaissance painting, the medieval legacy, naturalism and Albeti’s De Pictura
• The impact of the development of oil medium on the use of colour especially in relation to Van Eyck
• Chiaroscuro and tenebrism: Leonardo Da Vinci and his legacy in the seventeenth century (e.g. Caravaggio)
• Chevreul and the colour revolution of the Impressionists
• Development of new synthetic pigments and materials in the mid-nineteenth century with reference to the Impressionists and Pre-Raphaelites
• The liberation of colour in the twentieth century
• Expressionism: Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Franz Marc and der Blaue Reiter, and the colour field painters (e.g.Rothko)
• Experiments in the use of colour: e.g. Dan Flavin and Yves Klein.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

• Gain a knowledge of key developments in relation to colour in European art from the Renaissance to Modern art
• Identify key technical developments relating to colour
• Understand the key colour theories of the period.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

The course is suitable both for beginners and those with a specialist knowledge of medieval art. You should be able to follow simple written and verbal instructions, hand-outs and health and safety information, and will be invited to take part in group discussion and activities.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

You will be taught with short lectures, powerpoint presentations, activities and group discussions.

You will be invited to join a Google Classroom as part of this course. You will receive the email instructions approximately one week before the course begins.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

You may wish to bring a notebook and pen to take notes and/or purchase books on the suggested reading list.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Colour in medieval art
Medieval and Renaissance art at the V&A.

Andreas Petzold

Andreas Petzold was educated at Manchester University and the Courtauld Institute of Art, where he obtained a Ph.d. on the use of colour in illuminated manuscripts. He was a Curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum for eleven years where he specialised in medieval and Renaissance art. He has taught for the Open University, City University, the Institute of Continuing Education at Cambridge University, and Richmond Adult Community College (where he was a Curriculum Leader). He is the author of Romanesque Art in the Everyman Art Series (translated into four languages and specified on the BBC and Metropolitan Museum of Art websites), and has published twelve articles/book chapters on colour, stained glass, and textiles as well as contributing entries in Smarthistory. Interests include: colour (on which he is currently writing a book), ceramics, stained glass, and the application of computing to history of art.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.