Color and Culture: Practice and Meaning from Antiquity to Abstraction / Edition 1

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Color is fundamental to life and art yet so diverse that it has seldom been studied in a comprehensive way. This ground-breaking analysis of color in Western culture from the ancient Greeks to the late twentieth century is a John Gage triumph. With originality and erudition, he describes the first theories of color articulated by philosophers from Democritus to Aristotle and the subsequent attempts by the Romans and their Renaissance disciples to organize color systematically or endow it with symbolic power. The place of color in religion, Newton's analysis of the spectrum, Goethe's color theory, and the theories and practices that have attempted to unite color and music are among the intriguing topics this award-winning book illuminates.

With a large classified bibliography, discursive footnotes, and an exhaustive index, Color and Culture is an invaluable resource for artists, historians of art and culture, psychologists, linguists, and anyone fascinated by this most inescapable and evocative element of our perceptions.

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Editorial Reviews

New Republic
Extraordinary studies.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this searching, dazzlingly illustrated investigation of the experience of color in the West, Cambridge University art historian Gage explores color as a language of emotions, psychological meaning and religious significance. His 14 scholarly yet accessible essays, accompanied by 223 plates (more than half of which are in color), are full of arcane and wondrous lore, from ancient Rome's cult of purple (a hue associated with the ruling elite) to the symbology of rainbows, perceived correspondences between colors and music, and color symbolism in heraldry and alchemy. Certain themes re-emerge, such as the impact of color scientists Goethe and Newton on artists like Turner and Surat, and the popular notion of the Orient as a repository of colored, exotic stimuli and attitudes. The magnificent plates range from a fourth-century Egyptian mummy portrait to the color experiments of Kandinsky, Mondrian, Helen Frankenthaler, Sonia Delaunay, Kenneth Noland and Josef Albers. (Oct.)
Library Journal
This book contains everything you wanted to know about color as a cultural construct, physical and optical property, and theoretical problem. Gage (art, Cambridge Univ.; J.M.W. Turner , LJ 7/87) has ranged very widely and come up with an extremely inclusive book dealing with nearly every Western, historical, and perceptual aspect of color. Trained at the Courtauld Institute of Art, Gage has an artist's direct sense of color and communicates it well in his writing, even when the illustration is in black and white. He has written a fascinating survey of this universal--but very subjective--aspect of art; no other title compares in depth and scope to this work. Recommended for general collections as well as for specialists, who will find much of interest in Gage's bibliographical excavations and careful looking.-- Jack Perry Brown, Art Inst. of Chicago Lib.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520222250
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 8/3/1999
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 335
  • Sales rank: 536,188
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

John Gage is Reader in the History of Western Art at Cambridge University. An authority on color and on Turner, he is also the author of Color and Meaning: Art, Science, and Symbolism (California, 1999).

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Table of Contents

Introduction 7
1 The Classical Inheritance 11
2 The Fortunes of Apelles 29
3 Light from the East 39
4 A Dionysian Aesthetic 69
5 Colour-Language, Colour-Symbols 79
6 Unweaving the Rainbow 93
7 Disegno versus Colore 117
8 The Peacock's Tail 139
9 Colour under Control: The Reign of Newton 153
10 The Palette: 'Mother of All Colours' 177
11 Colours of the Mind: Goethe's Legacy 191
12 The Substance of Colour 213
13 The Sound of Colour 227
14 Colour without Theory: The Role of Abstraction 247
Acknowledgments 270
Notes to the Text 271
Bibliography and Concordance 303
List of Illustrations 324
Index 328
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