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What is colour? ....in the night everything is grey
.... correct ... because colour doesn't exist in nature, nevertheless every child knows, what red, blue or yellow means

How then can we see something that doesn't exist?

Colour only starts to exist, when the system of eye/brain produces the impression of "colour" ...
The light is perceived on the retina as a stimulus of colour and is processed into a perception of colour in brain ...

Expressed differently: The sky is blue because we see it like this ... and at night we don't see anything,... actually simple ...
but how complicate this process is, is explained by Thomas Seilnacht very easily on his page.

And now directly to the colours:


Painting and photographing
, what do they have in common?
The capture of light and colours!
There are only few examples where painting does intentionally without colours.

Here we have two examples of Piet Mondrian, in whose paintings colours usually have a leading part: We see graphical elements and/or structures instead of colours.

grey tree

Painters mainly use colours to express their feelings, thoughts and realities. We all know Tizians shining colours in front of a dark background and who doesn't know the yellow of the sun flowers of Vincent van Gogh?

Although if at present the former black-and-white photofilms have their renaissance and although if painters do without colours just to emphasize graphic elements and structures or to show the game of light and shadow, colour remains a very important element in photography.

How else can you express feelings which are associated to the perception of colours ...?

For demonstrating the effect of colours in general I first want to describe Mondrian's paintings, as these "pure" colours seem to be the best examples and no objects will divert you.

The three (pure) basic colours red, blue and yellow: You can see that on the left side the colours red and yellow together need a smaller space than blue, nevertheless you have the impression of a well-balance.

Red and yellow are "warmer" colours than blue, which seems to be more "cool". Warm colours influence your feelings more directly and therefore more intensive... Whereas in the right picture, where the placement of the colours seems to be more fairly, warm colours dominate.

In these two examples the "colourless" surface prevails, nevertheless the eye is "caught" by the coloured rectangle...

Even if they are so small, on the left side there is the impression of well-balance in spite of the tiny yellow surface and on the right side you have the impression of "warm".

Mondrian did not only use "pure" colours, but there is the same principle in mixtures: In both cases the warm shades dominate.

Namely red is missing on the right side, but yellow is mixed with blue and gives a "warm green".


Now let's look at a quite different one: Wassily Kandinsky Also here the colours are well-balanced but the total impression is "warm".
The picture "Autumn in Bavaria" shows the feelings of autumn by using warm colours. Only the shades are cool...
This one is quite different. It's called "yellow red and blue", but the blue is dominating. The red, mixed with blue, seems to be cooler than the pure one or the one mixed with yellow. The only attracting warm colour is the nearly pure yellow. When it's mixed with blue into a green shade (see right edge) it seems to be much cooler..
Whereas the "small pleasures" seem to be throughout warm colours ...

At the latest from Tizian, who made his colours shining in front of a dark background, we know that the effect of colours is very much determined by the background.

In the picture "on white" Kandinsky put the colours in front of a white background. For demonstrating the different effect, I permitted myself to exchange the white background for a black one ... the colours themselves I did not change.

A result which shows strongly enough the effect of the background on colours.

Further interesting details concerning the contrasts of colours you can find at Thomas Seilnacht, as well as further information about light and colour, eye and brain, colour systems, colour symbols, colour in art ... and - as he is a teacher of chemistry - about pigments and dye stuffs ... .