The History of Colors

Color is the corresponding visual perception in humans. One of the pioneers in the studies of colors is Isaac Newton who published a very important but controversial statement. Newton conducted an experiment which included passing a beam of sunlight through a prism which later produced seven other colors as the output; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Later he defined the white light spreading into rays, dispersion and the different colored rays, the spectrum. Newton also redid the experiment in a different way by passing the light rays through a prism and figured that it turned back into the original white light. After his intensive experiments, he concluded the color is not in the glass prism, rather it's in the light and also the white light is a mixture of all the colors of the spectrum.

Cave paintings were the first to use coloring. Ancients decorated the walls of the caves with paint that were made out of dirt, charcoal mixed with spit or even animal fat. They also used so-called earth pigments, (minerals limonite and hematite, red ochre, yellow ochre and umber), burnt bones (bone black) and white from grounded calcite (lime white). Prehistoric dwellers discovered that unlike the dye colors which were derived from animal and vegetable sources, the color that came from the iron oxide deposits in the earth would be more stable and will never fade even with the changes in the environment. Historians have deduced that the drive behind all the mining activities was the man's need for ochre pigments.

There were some issues with this technique which the pigments only stuck to the wall partially because of the binding media (the spit or fat) drying out quickly. In the Renaissance (1400-1600) egg was replaced by the walnut or linseed oil as the media or the adhesive of the paint. They dried more slowly which helped create a more versatile paint. Following the tradition that was introduced in the Stone Age cave painting, Italian Renaissance artists utilized natural chalks made from mineral pigments for drawing. The Renaissance color palette also included realgar and different types of blues including azurite, ultramarine and indigo. The greens were verdigris, green earth and malachite; the yellows were also Naples yellow, orpiment and lead-tin-yellow and brown from umber.

In the 19th century which was the beginning of the modern art; there was an enormous change for both the oil painters and water colorists. New colors were created; cobalt blue in 1807, viridian in 1838, cadmium yellow in 1820, cerulean blue in 1860, French ultramarine, zinc white and cobalt violet. The main reason for introducing the new oil and water color paints had nothing to do with the art but only with the huge demand for textile dyes for clothing.

Now days with all the technology and the ability to utilize the natural sources, humans are able to create new colors by mixing the three primary ones; Red, blue and yellow or commonly referred to as RYB. By mixing these colors plus black and white, all the colors of the rainbow can be composed. For example red and blue will yield purple, blue and yellow yield green and etc. The same technique is used in the most sophisticated printing devices; adding a combination of any two primary colors in roughly an equal proportion which would give rise to the perception of a secondary color such as red and blue that yield purple.

Works Cited
"Choose a Time Period." Pigments through the Ages -. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 June 2012.

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