Goethe & Abstract Art
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the renowned German writer and polymath, published a treatise titled "Theory of Colors" ("Zur Farbenlehre") in 1810. While Goethe's treatise primarily focused on color theory and perception, its influence on abstraction and abstract art can be seen in several ways:​​​​​​​
Subjective Experience of Color
Goethe emphasized the subjective nature of color perception, suggesting that colors evoke emotional and psychological responses in individuals. This emphasis on the subjective experience of color influenced abstract artists who sought to express their inner emotions and create art that transcended the representation of the physical world.
Symbolic and Expressive Potential of Color
Goethe proposed that colors have symbolic and expressive qualities, representing different moods, feelings, and ideas. This notion resonated with abstract artists who used color as a means of communication, using it to evoke specific emotions or convey abstract concepts.​​​​​​​
Exploration of Color Harmonies
Goethe's treatise delved into the harmonies and contrasts of colors. His ideas on color combinations and their effects influenced abstract artists in their experimentation with color relationships and the exploration of harmonious or dissonant palettes in their artworks.​​​​​​​
Rejection of Newtonian Color Theory
Goethe challenged the prevailing Newtonian color theory, which emphasized the scientific and objective understanding of color as wavelengths of light. His critique of the mechanistic approach to color influenced abstract artists who sought to move away from the objective representation of the visible world and explore non-representational forms of artistic expression.​​​​​​​
Holistic Approach to Color and Form
Goethe's holistic view of color, considering it in relation to other visual elements such as form, texture, and light, resonated with abstract artists who sought to create cohesive compositions that integrated color, shape, and other formal elements into a unified whole.
While Goethe's treatise was not directly aimed at abstraction or abstract art, his ideas and concepts on color perception, subjectivity, and expressive potential had a lasting impact on artists seeking new avenues of artistic expression, including the pioneers of abstraction. His treatise played a role in shaping the understanding and exploration of color in the context of abstract art.
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