The dark sky and seething waters of the Biblical flood are swept into a swirling mass of blacks and purples, surrounding a pool of contasting yellow in the distabce. "Shade and Darkness — The evening before the Deluge," J.W.M. Turner, 1843. Along with the painting below, the viewer is given a vivid and ideiosyncratic illustration of Goethe’s "positive" and "negative" forces of color.
"Light and Color (Goethe’s theory) — the morning after the deluge — Moses writing the Book of Genesis," J.M.W. Turner, 1843. He composed a verse to accompany this picture: "Th’ returning sun / Exhaled the earth’s humid bubbes, abd ... / reflected her lot forms, each in a prismatic guise..."
Joseph Mallord Turner (1775-1851) was captivated by light and color. When, towards the end of his spectacular and prolific career, he was asked to explain the pair of paintings (at right) he was exhbiting at the Royal Academy in 1843, he tersely replid, "Red, blue, and yellow." This triad comprised the painter’s traditional primaries.
Looking at the swirling chaos in Turner’s vision of the Deluge’s aftermath, it is difficult to believe that it is founded on scientific ideas, yet he cites "Geothe’s Theory," which he painstkingly studied, despite his limited formal education. He was intrigued by the anti-Newtonian donctrines expounded in Goethe’s Farbenlehre in 1810 — that there are three core colors, not seven as Newton found. But he felt that even Goethe had underappreciated the constructive role of darkness in the egneration of color.
Turner sought to capture on canvas the luminosity of the most complex scenes – light reflected from water, or seen throgh rain, steam, and fog. How did he do it? First, utilized the difference between subtractive and additive color mixtures. In many paintings, Turner stratigically placed small dots of colors so the additive mixture was gain brilliance (50 years before the Pointellists).
( INCOMPLETE PAGE )
"Women of Algiers in their Apartment," Delacroix, 1834. Delacroix explored the effects of contrast, and is said to have remarked, "Give me the mud of the streets and I will turn it into the lucious flesh of a woman"... if you allow me to surround it as I please.
Many of Chevreul’s ideas were tested on canvas by Eugène Delacroix. Later, the Impressionists studied his work closely, and seemed particularly enamoured with his thoughts on simultaneous contrast.
Goethe correctly identified simultaneous contrast as a perceptual phenomenon: "Every decided color does a certain violence to the eye and forces it to opposition."