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Goethe on color

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"Color itself is a degree of darkness."

German polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said that, and much else, in his publication Theory of Colors.

Brain pickings recently ran an appreciation of this Treatise, calling it "an absorbing account of the philosophy and artistic experience of color."

It was also part of the romantic rebellion against classicism -- Goethe was taking on boring clockworks-loving old Newton.

Here's a link to the Amazon page which will allow you to look inside Goethe's text if you're so inclined.


  1. In GOETHE: A VERY SHORT INTRODUCTION, Ritchie Robertson writes that Goethe's "obsessive, sometimes scurrilous, campaign against Newton was inevitably unsuccessful. Although Goethe made some valid methodological criticisms of Newton for confusing fact and fiction, e.g. talking of rays as real entities rather than as theoretical constructs, these criticisms missed the main point. Newton's account of the spectrum remains substantially valid. Goethe's essay is a quixotic rearguard action against the mathematization of science. ... [But] whatever its scientific flaws, its reflections on colour harmony would be valuable for painters." Robertson cites Turner and Kandinsky in particular.

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