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have provided Chevreul with the key to a fuller understanding of the quasi-additive principle of optical colour mixing (as the colour theory for spinning discs is essentiallyidentical to that for interwoven threads and pointillist painting). Since this misunderstanding is even today perpetuated by most art teachers and art historians, Chevreul can be forgiven. But he waslater to catch up, and it istypical of the enquiring mind of this brilliant researcher that even in 1882,at the age of 96, he was publishing new material on optical mixing, which linked Young’s theories to those of Maxwell and Helmholtz. In conclusion, I suggest that the purchase and detailed study of The Principles o f Harmony and Contrast o f Colorswill prove richly rewarding to all students of colour patient enough to examine its contents from cover to cover. No art library should be without a copy of Chevreul’s great treatise, and its reappearance with new annotations by Birren is to be enthusiastically welcomed. THE FORMS OF COLOUR by Karl Gerstner. MITPress, Cambridge, MA, 1986. 180 pp., illus. Cloth. ISBN: 0-262-07100-2. Reviewedby RobertDixon, 125Cricklade Avenue, London SW2, U.K. There is no form without colour and no colour without form. Nevertheless,visual artists have on occasion come close to excludingonein orderto pursue the other more fully. Karl Gerstner is an established Swiss artist who has adapted a suggestion of WassilyKandinsky in order to explore and express the ideas of (1) continuous, and (2) evenly measured, changes in the three dimensions of colour: hue, tone and saturation. After a considerable search, Gerstner has found a system of simple and symmetrical geometric shapes that can be continuously transformed from one to another so that each colour can be given its own distinct shape. Although his overlapping sequences of steadily transforming shapes make pleasing effect and wonderfully suggest the three degrees of freedom in colour space, Gerstner’s geometrical device effectivelyallows him to forget about shape in order to concentrate on colour. Some of his resulting artworks can be seen via the exceptionally good reproductions in Gerstner’s book, which I recommend to any artists engaged in thinking systematically about colour. Gerstner carefully explains the trains of thought which led him to his own geometric invention and starts by providing an excellent general introduction to what is known about colour and what is known about shape. He succeeds in giving his thoughts about colour a clear mathematical basis and indicates very well the mathematical niceties of colour theory. His potted history of geometry asit affectsourvision of space reads like a detective story in which the mystery deepens as answers suggest new questions. Key roles are played by Pythagoras, Brunelleschi, Kepler, Descartes, Gauss, Mandelbrot and others. Colour theory, explains Gerstner, is part aesthetics, part mathematics, part physics and part chemistry. There are many unanswered questions in these fields and Gerstner concentrates on one of them, the search for a geometric representation of colour ‘space’. Munsell’s cylindrical coordinates currently enjoy international acceptance and reveal the locus of pure colour to be an untidylooking helix around the axis of tone. But Gerstner is unhappy at the distortion of ‘distances’ between colours in Munsell’s model and urges the reader to consider the lesser known Wyszecki system based on the crystalline symmetry of stacking equal spheres. This replaces Munsell’s concentric cylinders of equal saturation with parallel planes, one of the seven sets of cleavage planes, which Gerstner illustrates. Theplanes of equalhue and of equal tone are not cleavageplanes, and it would be interesting to see them illustrated, but Gerstner the artist is clearly fascinated by the great subtleties arising when all three dimensions of colour are seen varying together. Three is the minimum number of hues required to define all other colours additively or subtractively, but Gerstner reminds us that the three primaries used by painters differ from those used in photography or printing. Any colour may be treated as primary and Gerstner prefers to include four primary hues as the basis of his system, consisting of two pairs of complementary hues set at rightanglesto oneanotheron the colour circle. To each of these four hues Gerstner assigns a geometric shape: circle for...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9282
Print ISSN
0024-094X
Pages
p. 97
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-04
Open Access
No
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