The Spectrum of Emotions Through Colored Paintings

Color has always been something human beings have associated with emotions. Everyone knows that red means angry, blue means calm, and who hasn’t been green with jealousy at least once? This is just the most commonly known association of these colors; there are many meanings attached to every color.

Without realizing it or not, color plays a significant role in our everyday lives. It allows us to help define our individuality by choosing the color of our clothes, car, etc. Still, it goes further than this and dictates many other factors, from our overall general mood to the products we buy in the supermarket.

Many artists have known these facts and, over the years, have used them to their advantage. Artists such as George Seurat and Paul Cezanne even when so far as to develop scientific theories of color to define these color/emotion relationships. So, yes, color and emotion certainly go hand in hand.

Impression Sunrise by Claude Monet

Famed for its striking use of color, Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet is a scene depicting the port of Le Havre. In this painting, Monet has combined different brushstrokes to depict the shade on the water, which creates an almost sparkling effect around objects in the foreground, such as boats.

This painting is extraordinary because it was not created for a collector or sale but purely for Monet’s pleasure. He aimed to capture the effects of light on water, which led him to create the Impression series. 

The fact that he chose such a dramatic subject and then rendered it in an almost abstract way, which left much to be imagined by the viewer, makes this piece especially important in Monet’s body of work.

Separation by Edvard Munch

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Sometimes an artist is so overcome with emotion that he paints them directly onto the canvas in as raw a fashion as possible. Edvard Munch was one such artist. The Norwegian painter was plagued by negative emotions throughout his life and portrayed all his pain, illness, heartache, and suffering in his paintings.

When you think about your emotions, you will lean on the positive or negative side of things. Munch lent heavily on the opposing side. Although most people would agree that they would want a happy painting on their wall, the negatively toned paintings exude the most emotion and weight when portraying the human condition.

His painting titled “Separation” highlights the darker side of the human heart in a beautifully poetic yet chilling way. Munch’s ability to portray the agony of heartache so well comes from his hardships in life. These hardships may have led to a mental breakdown, but they also helped achieve some of the most vibrant artwork ever made.

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

When speaking about the most famous colorful paintings and how emotions can play a role in developing mental illness, Vincent Van Gogh is usually the first artist to come to mind. The Dutch artist is believed to be one of the most colorful painters of all time and one of the most troubled.

The exhilarating vividness of color and exaggerated shapes exhibited throughout all of Van Gogh’s paintings can be directly related to his emotions and mental state at the time. For example, he painted his most famous piece, “Starry Night,” while being a resident in a mental hospital.

“Starry Night” is just one example of how the complexity of someone’s painful emotions can be wonderfully transmuted and then expressed through color and art. Van Gogh is debatably the best artist regarding this, and his intensely colorful renditions are an example for all artists to follow.

The Burning Giraffe by Salvador Dali

Scientists now believe that some of the aspects that make up our dreams are due to emotions not being expressed while we are awake. This thought breakthrough allows us to see that emotions might play a more significant part in our lives than we fully realize.

When attempting a painting that expresses the color of an emotion, there is no better place an artist can draw inspiration from than from his imagination and dreams. This internal playground is where all colors, emotions, and ideas for paintings come from.

Spanish Surrealist artist Salvador Dali lived in this dream space. He explored all of the darker and repressed emotions that lay within us. As a result, he produced some of the most famous colorful paintings, even emotional and weirdest art.

Castle and Sun by Paul Klee

As well as colors, shapes can also have a profound effect on our emotions and mood. For example, shapes such as the triangle have been used for hundreds of years in many cultures to symbolize healing and positive energy. Combined, they can create a powerful aura of positive emotions.

Like colors, our mind perceives shapes in the same way by associating them with certain feelings or emotions. This seems to be the way our minds work under the surface. For example, a square can represent home to us, while a diamond shape is known to represent riches.

In regards to art, paintings that hold great color and shapes can uplift and invigorate us. So different than looking at a painting that tells a story, these colorful shapes seem to speak to us on a deeper, more primal level.

Conclusion

When seeking to understand the spectrum of emotions, there is no better place to explore than in the world of art. Perhaps nowhere else in our culture will you find the whole range of experienceable human emotion so deeply explored or faithfully represented.

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Christophe Rude

Christophe Rude

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