The Colloquial Application of Color and Meaning

Robert St Paul

I discuss the use of color and pigment as it relates to meaning and symbology during the renaissance era. I focused on four prominent artists, Leonardo Da Vinci, Jan Van Eyck, Johannes Vermeer and Albrecht Dürer, all very proficient in their use of both color theory and usage of symbols. I choose these artists because they represent a very broad range of years, yet have very specialized and unique attributes that they all offer to the idea of color and symbols. Be that da Vinci's masterful techniques in glazing and sfumato or Dürer and his exquisite woodcuts and immense use of symbols with religious undertones in any number of his paintings. Vermeer and Van Eyck, while separated by many years, both share qualities that transcend time with their immaculate handling of the pigments available and the masterful layout techniques and use of perspective. All of these artists included subtle yet very apparent use of both highly charged imagery and underlying hints at faith and spirituality, all of which have a basis in mastery of color and symbols. I found that although all four artists held one thing in common, mastery, each had obtained a level in artistry only few could hope to in their lifetimes. Each one developed, independently, skills and techniques that would be the envy of the world for ages to come. Becoming the basis of knowledge for countless students and academics for hundreds of years, if not persisting until the documents fall to time itself.

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