The vibrant history and dynamic use of colour in painting and daily life

Colour helps to express light, not a physical phenomenon, but the only light that really exists, that is in the artist’s mind.

-Henri Matisse

Since ancient times, colour has mesmerised humans with its various shades and hues. Its use in art and its impact on day-to-day existence attest to its deep impact on our aesthetic, psychological and emotional experiences. This blog article examines the rich history of colour in painting, its cultural significance and its indispensable function in daily life.

History of colour in painting

Ancient beginnings

This is a photograph of a Prehistoric art in Bison Cave Altamira located near the historic town of Santillana del Mar in Cantabria, Spain, photographed by Janeb13., taken from Pixabay.

Prehistoric art: Colour has been a part of art since prehistoric times; Cave paintings are one of the earliest evidences of mankind’s desire to depict the world in colour. Natural colours made from organic materials, minerals and earth were used by these ancient artists. The earliest colours were ochre, charcoal and hematite, resulting in a limited but attractive palette of reds, browns and blacks.

Ancient Egypt: The colour had deep symbolic significance in ancient Egypt, where it was widely used on objects and tomb paintings. The Egyptians believed that colours represented different aspects of life and the afterlife and had protective properties. For example, blue represents creation and the divine, while green represents fertility        and renewal. Minerals such as lapis lazuli for blue and malachite for green were used as paints by Egyptian artists.

Classical antiquity

  1. Greece and Rome: The use of colour in painting was further explored by Greek and Roman artists. The Greeks created brilliant and long-lasting paintings through the process of encaustic painting, which required combining colours with hot wax. Roman paintings, especially those that have survived and been preserved at Pompeii, displayed realism and the creative use of colour to build texture and depth The Romans imported Egyptian indigo, cinnamon or vermilion for touch of the diffusion of colours.
  2. Middle Ages: Church and religious themes had a major influence on colour in art during the Middle Ages. Biblical tales are typically depicted in illuminated manuscripts, which are superb illustrations of the vivid colour schemes and gold leaf used in mediaeval art. Artists used natural pigments and minerals such as ultramarine, a very valuable blue pigment that was paired with lapis lazuli, which is usually reserved for painting the Virgin Mary’s clothes because of its high price.
  3. Renaissance: The use of colour in paintings was influenced by the Renaissance, a renewed interest in humanity and in nature. Due to its versatility and colourful oil paintings, artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael tried to use it. The use of chiaroscuro, or strong light and dark contrasts, and linear perspective added depth and realism to the images.

    Leonardo created sfumato, a smoky combination of colours and tones. Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel paintings are known for their vivid use of colour to convey emotion and movement.

4. Baroque period: Baroque painters such as Caravaggio and Peter Paul Rubens used colour to add dramatic effect and emotional intensity. Caravaggio used a painting technique called Tenebridge, which uses strong contrasts of light and dark to create dramatic effects that draw the viewer into the painting, while bright colours and movement the pleasure is not. Rubens’s colourful and vivid paintings perfectly capture the Baroque style.

18th and 19th century

  1. Rococo: Characterised by its elaborate and elegant design, the Rococo period used colour in light and sophisticated ways. Artists such as François Boucher and Jean-Honore Fregonard used pastels and soft colours to create dramatic romantic settings.
  2. Romanticism and Realism: The Romantic movement emphasise individual expression and emotion. It also often uses bright colours to highlight the sublime and powerful forces of nature.

    Colour: Eugene Delacroix, J.M.W. Turner to create atmosphere and mood. On the other hand realist artists such as Gustave Courbet and Jean-François Millet aimed to capture the harsh truth of their subjects with muted and earthy paintings to create everyday life of the figure

3. Impressionism: Impressionism changed the use of colour in painting. Painters such as Claude Monet, Pierre-August Renoir, Edgar Degas departed from traditional techniques to represent the fleeting effects of light and atmosphere with short bold brushstrokes, bright colours. Colours expanded with the invention of dye, allowing Impressionists to create the bright and varied colours We do.

Monet’s concern with changes in light and colour over time is evident in his series of paintings, “Water Lilies” and “Stacks of Grass.” The emphasis on natural light and complementary colour shading made a big difference.

20th century and beyond

  1. Post Impressionism: Experimenting with new colour palettes, impressionists such as Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and Georges Seurat built on their success. In other works, “Starry Night” and “Sunflowers,” Van Gogh’s use of colour was expressive and emotive, emphasising his inner conflicts and desires. Pointillism, a style developed by Seurat , arranges colour particles close together to create a visual blend from a distance.
  2. Modernity: Many paintings appeared in the 20th century, each with a colour effect. Henri Matisse’s Fauvism was famous for its use of vivid and unnatural colours. Colour was an important tool used by abstract artists like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko to evoke emotions and create stunning visual experiences.

    Pop art, which included artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, used vivid and contrasting colours to represent late 20th century consumer culture and to challenge Its opposite minimalism often used monochrome colours to emphasise form and space.

3. Contemporary Art: Contemporary artists are still pushing the boundaries of colour in their work. Global culture has combined traditions and influences, while digital technologies have expanded the possibilities of shaping and transforming colour. The creative power of contemporary art is underpinned by artists such as Olafur Eliasson, who manipulates the environment with light and colour, and Yayoi Kusama, known for her use of stripes and vibrant colours there for well.

Use of colours in daily life

Psychological and emotional effects

Colour has a profound effect on our emotions, thoughts, and actions in our daily lives. The study of how colours affect human emotions and moods is known as colour psychology.

Warm colours

Vibrant colours like yellow, orange and yellow are often associated with warmth, energy and comfort. They are often used in restaurants because it can increase their appetite. If used excessively they can also cause feelings of anxiety or anger.

  • Red: Often associated with passion, enthusiasm and urgency. This works well for exit and sell signals because it can increase the pulse rate and create a sense of urgency.
  • Orange: It combines bright red with the joy of red. It is associated with growth, happiness and productivity.
  • Yellow: The colour of sunshine representing contentment, hope and happiness. While it may be distracting, it should be used in moderation as it can irritate the eyes and irritate people.

Cool colours

Empowering relaxation, cool colours such as blue, green and red are often used in spaces that promote calmness and relaxation. 

  • Blue: Associated with professionalism, confidence and peace. It is suitable for office and bedroom use as it can lower heart rate and blood pressure. 
  • Green: Represents harmony, growth, and the natural world. It has calming properties and is often used in healthcare settings to promote healing and relaxation. 
  • Purple: combines the stability of blue with the intensity of red. It is associated with wealth, creativity and spirituality. Lavender and other light purple colours can make you feel peaceful and relaxed.

Cultural understanding

Colour has different meanings and meanings in different cultures, influencing everything from fashion to customs and traditions.

Western cultures

In many Western cultures, colours have specific associations:

  • White: Symbolises purity, innocence and peace. Commonly used in weddings and health care.
  • Black: Represents elegance, sophistication and formality but also death and mourning.
  • Red: Often associated with love, passion and danger.
  • Blue: Symbolises trust, security and peace.
  • Green: Represents nature, health and wealth.
  • Yellow: Associated with happiness, caution and cowardice.

Eastern cultures

Colour meanings in Eastern culture can be very different:

  • Red: In China, red symbolises happiness, joy and prosperity. It is often used in festivals and weddings. 
  • White: In many Asian cultures, it is often associated with death and mourning. 
  • Blue: In Hinduism, blue is black and represents god. 
  • Green: In Islamic culture, green is associated with the heavens and is a sacred colour. 
  • Yellow Yellow in India is associated with education and knowledge and is often worn in religious ceremonies.

Colour in fashion and design

Colour trends in fashion and home design mirror social sensibilities and tastes. Colour is a tool that artists use to achieve a specific response.

– Fashion: Colour is a tool used by fashion designers to communicate brand identity, set trends and tell stories. Seasonal colour changes often reflect larger social, cultural, and economic issues. For example, in moments of happiness and beauty, vivid, rich colours are common, while in moments of uncertainty, muted, neutral tones are common.

– Interior design: Interior designers use colour to create mood, define spaces, and enhance the functionality of a room.


– Living room: Warm and inviting colours such as soft beige, brown, red or orange create a cosy atmosphere.

– Kitchen: Bright colours like white, yellow or green can make a kitchen look clean and energetic.

– Bedroom: Calm, peaceful colours like blues.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top