COLOR and their SYMBOLISM in art


When we talk about paintings, the foremost thing that comes to mind is color. One cannot do without the other. Although color has different connotations, the primary significance is that color is tied in very deeply to human emotions and behavior. Color influences us physically, emotionally and even spiritually in a way that no other medium can.

Artists have used color since time immemorial, whether knowingly or unknowingly, to convey exactly how they feel, or to reproduce the environment and the ambiance at the time when the painting was done.

Color has be used as a powerful tool in art and artists have used it to create light, space, shadow and even a symbolic association.

To illustrate the significance of colors in different paintings, let us understand what color brings out in them and what they were meant to convey.

VISION AFTER THE SERMON, 1888 (Oil on Canvas)

Paul Gauguin's VISION AFTER THE SERMON, 1888

Paul Gauguin’s VISION AFTER THE SERMON, 1888

Paul Gauguin’s, VISION AFTER THE SERMON is a painting that depicts Jacob wrestling with an angel in a red field. In this painting, the artist has used RED to denote turmoil, because the color represents danger, violence and anger. The color also denotes love and passion and in this painting, has been used as a predominant color to convey the emotions that the characters are going through.


ORANGE AND YELLOW, 1956 (Oil on Canvas)

Mark Rothko's ORANGE AND YELLOW, 1956

Mark Rothko’s ORANGE AND YELLOW, 1956

In this painting, the Abstract Impressionist artist Mark Rothko tries to portray an incredibly powerful emotion in a very simplistic way. Using the secondary colour ORANGE, to symbolize creativity and energy, and encouraging users to view his paintings from up close, he asks them to open up their emotions to the world in a primitive and pure way.


THE BRIDGE AT MAINCY, 1879 (Oil on Canvas)

Paul Cezanne's THE BRIDGE AT MAINCY, 1879

Paul Cezanne’s THE BRIDGE AT MAINCY, 1879

Impressionist artist Paul Cezanne always painted abstracts, in such a way that the arrangement of color was used to create a two-dimensional surface. This is what The BRIDGE AT MAINCY is all about, his ‘constructions after nature’. The color GREEN, which is the color of plants and trees is also the color of nature, and in this painting depicts health and growth.


James Whistler's, THE BRIDGE AT MAINCY, 1879

James Whistler’s, THE BRIDGE AT MAINCY, 1879

Artist James Whistler was influenced by nature, and in the painting NOCTURNE, BLUE AND SILVER has reproduced it beautifully. The color BLUE is calm, serene and in religious terms, is also used to depict Gods, case in point being the Virgin Mary in Christianity. James has painted the River Thames in the color he’s seen it at night, in a style strongly influenced by the Japanese art of ‘ukiyo-e’ which means ‘pictures of the floating world’.

SHOES, 1888 (Oil on Canvas)



Much as Vincent Van Gogh was known for some brilliant pieces of vivid work, what stand out are some relatively simple ones that brilliantly capture what the artist was all about, a simple man who had undergone several hardships in life.

SHOES, by Van Gogh was painted later in life, and reflect the humility of the subject matter. The use of the color BROWN to paint tired old shoes of a humble peasant shows the hardship of its owner and depicts the solidness of the earth on which it stands.

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