Artists Quotes About Color

Artist throwing paint at canvas

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"Instead of trying to reproduce exactly what I see before me, I make more arbitrary use of color to express myself more forcefully... To express the love of two lovers by the marriage of two complementary colors... To express the thought of a brow by the radiance of a light tone against a dark background. To express hope by some star. Someone's passion by the radiance of the setting sun." -Vincent van Gogh, 1888

"I sense a scream passing through nature. I painted... the clouds as actual blood. The color shrieked." -Edvard Munch, on his painting The Scream

"Color and I are one. I am a painter." -Paul Klee, 1914

"Color helps to express light—not the physical phenomenon, but the only light that really exists, that in the artist's brain." -Henri Matisse, 1945

"Before, when I didn't know what colour to put down, I put down black. Black is a force: I depend on black to simplify the construction. Now I've given up blacks." -Henri Matisse, 1946

"They'll sell you thousands of greens. Veronese green and emerald green and cadmium green and any sort of green you like; but that particular green, never." -Pablo Picasso, 1966

"'Broken' color refers to the subtractive combination of contrasting colors: the individual intensity of two or more brightly colored paints is broken or dulled by combining them in mixtures... colors used 'pure' elsewhere in the composition are combined to give broken grey variants. Retaining the lively qualities of the original bright colors, these ensure the picture's coloristic unity while permitting a painterly economy of means during rapid work en plein air... The key to making colored greys is including both warm and cool colors in the mixture; adding a touch of red to a blue-green mixture is the easiest, most effective, way to 'break' it and render it greyish. The further apart the colors on on the color circle, the more broken, or grey, will be their color when combined." (From The Art of Impressionism: Painting technique and the making of modernity by Anthea Callen. Yale University Press. p150)

"The craving for color is a natural necessity just as for water and fire. Color is a raw material indispensable to life. At every era of his existence and his history, the human being has associated colour with his joys, his actions and his pleasures." -Fernand Leger, "On Monumentality and Color", 1943

"Of all the colors, blue and green have the greatest emotional range. Sad reds and melancholy yellows are difficult to turn up." (William H Gass, On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry
Quoted in Colour: Documents of Contemporary Art edited by David Batchelor, p154)