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The Pigment Timeline Project



A Colour A Day: Week 46

By Ruth Siddall, on 7 February 2021

A Colour A Day: Week 46. 1st – 7th February 2021

Jo Volley writes …

This week we celebrate seven orange pigments with an accompanying text written by Ed Winters.

Orange is both a direct and indirect reference to the secondary colour. It is direct in that it names the colour. It is indirect in that it refers to the citrus fruit which, when ripe, exemplifies the colour. It is a secondary colour in that it can be ‘divided by’ red and yellow, the two primary colours between which it sits on the colour wheel. It is the complementary colour of the third primary colour, blue. It is as warm as blue is cool.Thus, we can begin to build up descriptive relations between orange and the system of colours into which its place is uniquely specified in advanceIf that sounds queer, it is because colour is, first and foremost, apprehended in and through perception. To talk of a colour geometry is to posit a system which is conceived a priori. If no-one had ever seen orange, say because there just happened to be no orange surfaces in the world, we would nevertheless feel that there is somewhere in colour space awaiting its arrival; a gap, so to speak. Given our conception of complementary colours we would be puzzled by the gap that is left in partnering blue with its complementary. (We would have to think of orange even if we had never seen it. And that is a very odd thought). It is a bright colour with a tonal value between the lighter colour yellow and the darker colour red. It thus reflects more light than its complementary blue (the so called “problem of inverted qualia”)Wittgenstein, in noticing such features of colours, undermines the thought that what you see as orange could be what I see as blue. Hence Wittgenstein looks to these other features of colour properties to begin to identify colours without recourse to indirect descriptions.

Dr Edward Winters is a writer and artist. He is an elected member of the Association Internationale des Critiques d’Art; and an elected member of the council of the Royal Institute of Philosophy. He writes widely on art and aesthetics.

All pigments are bound in gum Arabic on W&N watercolour paper and read:

First rectangle clockwise from top:

Orange Vermilion

Chrome Orange

Alizarin Orange

Monolite Orange

Second rectangle clockwise from top:

Lead Tin Orange

Lead Tin Orange

Iragazine Orange

End rectangle:

Mineral Orange


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