Color and Musical Harmonies in Painting of the 17th and 18th Centuries

Dr. Jenny Carson
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This paper investigates the relationship between painting and music in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Music's influence on painting likely begins in the seventeenth century with the French Academic theory of modes in art, an idea emanating from classical music theory. During the Baroque era, members of the French Art Academy applied the concept of modes to painting. Painters needed to suit subject, style, shading and color to the mode in which they worked. Artists, like musicians, believed that combining more than one mode in any given composition would weaken its strength and harmony.

Later generations of artists added Isaac Newton's discovery of refracted light to their understanding of compositional harmony. The seven hues of the visible prism were associated with tones of the musical scale and artists followed rules of musical harmonies to achieve harmonies in color. Additionally, painters of the 18th century likened the seven components of the visible prism to pigment, a connection that eventually led to the development of the color wheel. This process required colors to appear in specific proportions in any given work, based on the proportions of light's spectral bands. Artists were so sure of these theories they applied them when analyzing works of the old masters, paintings produced well over a century before Newton's discoveries about the properties of light were published.

Keywords: Aesthetics, Painting, Art, Music, Art Theory
Stream: Aesthetics, Design
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr. Jenny Carson

Instructor of Art History, Department of Liberal Arts, Maryland Institute College of Art

Jenny Carson is an instructor of Art History at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland. One of her current projects is the study of color theory and practice in the art of the Renaissance through the 18th century. She has also lectured on artists' use of the camera obscura in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Ref: H05P0242