Artists Quotes About Color

What famous artists have had to say about color, how they see it and use it.

Artists quotes about color
"That particular green, never...". Image: © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to, Inc.

"Instead of trying to reproduce exactly what I see before me, I make more arbitrary use of colour to express myself more forcefully ... To express the love of two lovers by the marriage of two complementary colours ... To express the thought of a brow by the radiance of a light tone against a dark background. To express hope by some star. Someone's passion by the radiance of the setting sun."
Vincent van Gogh, 1888.

"I sense a scream passing through nature. I painted ... the clouds as actual blood. The colour shrieked."
Edvard Munch, on his painting The Scream.

"Colour and I are one. I am a painter."
Paul Klee, 1914.

"Colour helps to express light, not the physical phenomenon, but the only light that really exists, that in the artist's brain."
Henri Matisse, 1945.

"Before, when I didn't know what colour to put down, I put down black. Black is a force: I depend on black to simplify the construction. Now I've given up blacks."
Henri Matisse, 1946.

"They'll sell you thousands of greens. Veronese green and emerald green and cadmium green and any sort of green you like; but that particular green, never."
Pablo Picasso, 1966.

"I have observed a number of works which actually lead one to assume that certain people's eyes show them things differently from the way they really are ... who perceive - or as they would doubtless say 'experience' - the meadows as blue, the sky as green, the clouds as sulphurous yellow, and so on ... I wish to prohibit such unfortunates, who clearly suffer from defective vision, from trying to foist the products of their faulty observation on to their fellow men as though they were realities, or indeed from dishing them up as 'art'."
Adolf Hitler, 1937, about degenerate art.

Broken Colour: "'Broken' colour refers to the subtractive combination of contrasting colours: the individual intensity of two or more brightly coloured paints is broken or dulled by combining them in mixtures...
...colours used 'pure' elsewhere in the composition are combined to give broken grey variants. Retaining the liverly qualities of the original bright colours, these ensure the picture's colouristic unity while permitting a painterly economy of means during rapid work en plein air...
...The key to making coloured greys is including both warm and cool colours in the mixture; adding a touch of red to a blue-green mixture is the easiest, most effective, way to 'break' it and render it greyish. The further apart the colours on on the colour circle, the more broken, or grey, will be their colour when combined."
(Quote source: The Art of Impressionism: Painting technique and the making of modernity by Anthea Callen. Yale University Press. p150)

"The craving for colour is a natural necessity just as for water and fire. Colour is a raw material indispensable to life. At every era of his existence and his history, the human being has associated colour with his joys, his actions and his pleasures."
-- Fernand Leger, "On Monumentality and Color", 1943.

"Of all the colours, blue and green have the greatest emotional range. Sad reds and melancholy yellows are difficult to turn up."
-- William H Gass, On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry
Quoted in Colour: Documents of Contemporary Art edited by David Batchelor, p154.