Monday, February 24, 2014

History of Color

Color in History

Colorful Textiles

Color has become such a staple in everyday life that most individuals are not aware that there’s a history there.  It all started with Isaac Newton, who started at the young age of 23 experimenting with colors and breaking down the components to discover where the colors came from.  He named them red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet, which are still used today. 

Ranucula fields in California

 Since then, there have been huge leaps in the discovery of color.  The color wheel was created, identifying primary, secondary, and tertiary colors.  In the 19th century, physicist James Clerk Maxwell discovered that using three basic colors (red, green, blue) can create a wide range of colors.

Colorful Canoes

The development of color isn’t just limited to the colors themselves – color television is a phenomenon that is always reinventing itself even into present day.  The first successful color television system began broadcasting in the 1950s. 

 When Ford started mass producing cars, they painted them all black because the paint dried faster and made the assembly line move quicker.  For 13 years, all cars produced by Ford were in black until more colors were introduced to the line to boost dwindling sales.

Color has had an impact all over the world, in different countries and cultures. Certain civilizations viewed colors in certain ways, with suspicions and beliefs in their meanings and symbolizations.  The Chinese have gone through periods of color, believing in the five elements of nature (water, fire, wood, metal, and earth) and focused their fashions along the corresponding pigments of black, red, blue-green, white and yellow.  During periods of a reigning emperor, like Huang Di (the Yellow Emperor), certain colors were emphasized more than others.  Red symbolized good fortune and joy, black represented Heaven’s color, and white portrayed mourning; whereas in North America, black is the color of mourning and death and white stands for purity.

Black Crows in Winter

India also has a history of rich colors, with their fabrics and architecture vibrating with bright, expressive hues.  For them, weddings are especially colorful as red represents purity and often overshadows all other colors at this event.  Egyptians used to believe that color had mystical healing powers.

Zebra Bath in Botswana-color in nature
Paint is one of the biggest distributors of color, providing the opportunity for every one to add personality to their homes and surroundings.  During the Renaissance period, blue was favored by the general population as it was intense, yet warm.  It continued its popularity into the 18th century, while also welcoming a brilliant green.

In more recent history, light and bright colors, such as yellows, greens, and light blues, were common in most households, being used on walls, fixtures, and trims.  Color trends come and go as well in respects to household products.  It used to be that avocado green and harvest gold were prominent in the appliance industry. It has slowly moved towards neutrals or vibrant colors leading up to current trends.

Color Block Trend in Kitchens

Looking back into the history of color is important, to know where we started and what we’ve gone through.  Whether we repeat the trends of the past or continue to develop new ideas, color will continue to be a significant part of the future.

(This short history of color was written by Pat Verlodt, who writes for the Color Maniacs website.

1 comment:

  1. Barbara, your post here is excellent! You explain so well, and draw one along so easily. Color really is such a fascinating subject. I have been enthralled for my entire life. I do believe color is healing : )
    Hugs and thank you for your informative post,