Color in the Age of Impressionism
Commerce, Technology, and Art
By (author) Laura Anne Kalba
Publication date:21 April 2017
Length of book:288 pages
PublisherPenn State University Press
This study analyzes the impact of color-making technologies on the visual culture of nineteenth-century France, from the early commercialization of synthetic dyes to the Lumière brothers’ perfection of the autochrome color photography process. Focusing on Impressionist art, Laura Anne Kalba examines the importance of dyes produced in the second half of the nineteenth century to the vision of artists such as Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Claude Monet.
The proliferation of vibrant new colors in France during this time challenged popular understandings of realism, abstraction, and fantasy in the realms of fine art and popular culture. More than simply adding a touch of spectacle to everyday life, Kalba shows, these bright, varied colors came to define the development of a consumer culture increasingly based on the sensual appeal of color. Impressionism—emerging at a time when inexpensively produced color functioned as one of the principal means by and through which people understood modes of visual perception and signification—mirrored and mediated this change, shaping the ways in which people made sense of both modern life and modern art.
Demonstrating the central importance of color history and technologies to the study of visuality, Color in the Age of Impressionism adds a dynamic new layer to our understanding of visual and material culture.
“In this beautifully conceived and written book, Kalba shows her depth of vision and understanding of the relationship between Impressionism and the technological advances that allowed Impressionism to have such a unique impact on society in the late 1800s and beyond. The examples are well chosen, and the book is a joy to experience. Summing up: Essential.”
—J. Allison, Choice