Color Cultures

Material Histories

Color Cultures

Material Histories

Luis Fernández-Galiano 

RAL color chart for paints and coatings

Color choice is not innocent. Every tone and nuance of the chromatic range has a symbolic weight that overlaps with its aesthetic dimension, making it impossible to regard the decision to use one instead of another as an exclusively visual matter. Artistic sensibility is indeed always present in the selection of colors or textures, but in no way can it be reduced to a question of individual taste, however often we hear that there are colors to suit every taste, a trite dictum which associates the diversity of these with people’s alleged absolute freedom of choice. Colors have a cultural and historical baggage that is good to know about when an architect or a designer uses them, and here I will recommend a handful of readings that can be helpful when we have to make chromatic decisions. As already explained in ‘Color and Crime’ (Arquitectura Viva 229), architecture has had a difficult relationship with color, but the interiors featured in the following pages show the extent to which the use of colors creates domestic atmospheres that are more distinctive and beautiful, without being diminished to mere ornamental devices...[+]

Claude Boutet, Traité de la peinture en mignature, 1708

Reviewed books:

Colour and Meaning

Art, Science and Symbolism

Colour and Culture

Practice and Memory from Antiquity to Abstraction

Colour in Art

(World of Art)

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