Browse by Colors

Choose a color from the palette, and see the greatest paintings with the selected color by the great masters.


Color and Tone

Color and tone are the essence of painting as pitch and rhythm are of music. Color is highly subjective, but has observable psychological effects although these can differ from one culture to the next. Black is associated with mourning in the West, but in the East, white is. Some painters, theoreticians, writers and scientists, including Goethe, Kandinsky, and Newton, have written their own color theory.

Moreover the use of language is only a generalization for a color equivalent. The word "red",for example, can cover a wide range of variations on the pure red of the visible spectrum of light. There is not a formalized register of different colors in the way that there is agreement on different notes in music, such as C or C♯ in music. For a painter, color is not simply divided into basic and derived (complementary or mixed) colors (like red, blue, green, brown, etc.).

Painters deal practically with pigments, so "blue" for a painter can be any of the blues: phtalocyan, Paris blue, indigo, cobalt, ultramarine, and so on. Psychological, symbolical meanings of color are not strictly speaking means of painting. Colors only add to the potential, derived context of meanings, and because of this the perception of a painting is highly subjective.

The analogy with music is quite clear—sound in music (like "C") is analogous to light in painting, "shades" to dynamics, and coloration is to painting as specific timbre of musical instruments to music—though these do not necessarily form a melody, but can add different contexts to it.