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Colour theory

Lecture series with David Briggs

Colour theory is about more than just selecting what might go on an artist’s palette. Over the course of three weeks, this lecture series offers a different appreciation of art from a technical perspective that stretches past the basic colour wheel.

Dr David Briggs will explore the development of our understanding of colour, from Leonardo da Vinci to the revolutions in colour theory of the 18th and 19th centuries. He will look at relationships between colours, systems for classifying colour mixing, and colour theory in the digital age.

Dr Briggs has taught colour theory at the National Art School and drawing for Disney Australia, as well as at various other design and arts colleges.

Saturday 8, 15, 29 November 2014, 2pm

$30 non-member
$25 member
$15 full-time student

Full series:
$75 non-member
$60 member

Bookings and enquiries: 02 9225 1878


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Link above is for subscription booking

Three full working days (Mon–Fri) notice is required to qualify for a refund. All refunds attract an administration charge of 25% of the ticket price(s) with a minimum charge of $5. With subscription tickets there are no refunds for single sessions, unless a session is cancelled. Not negotiable.

Duration 1 hour
Location: Centenary Auditorium

The nature of colour

The idea that all colours are made from yellow, red and blue was widely accepted in science until the middle of the 19th century, when it was overturned by a revolution in our understanding of colour. This new understanding led to modern colour printing, photography and cinema, and eventually to digital photography, painting and rendering. However, the older view persisted in artistic circles well into the 20th century, and inspired many of the pioneers of abstract art, including Mondrian, Kandinsky and Klee. In this lecture we contrast these differing views on the fundamental nature of colour.



Saturday 8 November 2014 2pm – 3pm

The structure of colour

The single most important use of colour theory for artists is in providing a framework for thinking about colour relationships and colour mixing. In this session we look at the various systems of arranging and classifying colours that have been used in art, from the linear scale that persisted from Aristotle, to the many colour wheels and three-dimensional systems used by painters since that time, both in traditional and in digital media. As we will see, artists of various kinds as well as scientists who were also amateur painters are prominent among the inventors of these systems.



Saturday 15 November 2014 2pm – 3pm

The teaching of colour

While some elements of colour theory first appear in documents stretching back to antiquity, including the writings of Alberti and Leonardo, substantial texts on colour theory for artists only began to proliferate in the early 19th century. Although scientist-painters including Bezold and Rood were quick to write books explaining the mid 19th-century revolution in our understanding of colour for artists, the earlier tradition persisted strongly in art education throughout the 20th century. Modern colour theory has lately gained ground in some sectors in response to factors including the rise of digital photography and painting.



Saturday 29 November 2014 2pm – 3pm