Towards a universal theory of color?

| December 21, 2007

Is it possible to accept a universal theory of color?

In the early 20’s some Bauhaus painters faced the following problem: was it possible to generate a value scale of equal perceptual steps between black and white? Itten answered in the affirmative. He proposed a scale of seven steps. In the same period the German theorist Wilhelm Ostwald and the American theorist Albert Munsell proposed their color system, which became the most widely used in twenty century color. I ‘d have liked to ask them: what do you think about De diversibus artibus?

De diversibus is a book of twelfth century, in which the German monk Theophilus introduces his scale of color with a discussion on painting the rainbow.

“Neither man nor nature could afford to use a mechanism that would provide a special kind of receptor or generator for each color shade” (Rudolph Arnheim).

“A semiotic theory of color universals must take for significance exactly what colors do mean in humans society. They do not mean Munsell color chips” (Berlin and Kay)

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