Josef Albers, the Color Czar (for some folks anyway)

“In visual perception a color is almost never seen as it really is—as it physically is. This fact makes color the most relative medium in art.”
–Josef Albers

“If you don’t do it my way, I suggest you commit suicide.”
–Josef Albers

How humans perceive color is not dissimilar to how humans raise a child: Even though we have been at it for thousands of years, we still don’t agree on how to do it.

Josef Albers is the artist most often associated with color theory as well as color dogmatism. The battle between the Albers method and other color systems continues in art pedagogy, a discussion I typically watch from the sidelines since I am a dogged nonreligionist on this topic. For me it has and always will be an element of art that is subjective, furtive and unexpected.

But even though I do not subscribe to any one system of thought on color, I love to read about it. I probably have over 20 books in my library on the topic. And recently I found a website that approaches color theory in a refreshingly non-doctrinaire but well informed manner. Color System is based on the research of two professors, Narciso Silvestrini and Ernst Peter Fischer, and brings together illustrated overviews of 59 different color order systems from both art and science. The list starts with theorists from antiquity (Pythagoras, Aristotle, Plato) cuts through to Goethe and current approaches. The site also includes a few overviews of the significance of color in a number of cultural systems—astrological, Islamic, Liturgical, Symbolism and Heraldry among others. For anyone interested in color, this is fascinating stuff.

Extra bonus: If you enjoy playing with color and color perception, here’s a great site for you: Color is Relative


Goethe’s color wheel

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