Color in the Age of Impressionism

Commerce, Technology, and Art

By (author) Laura Anne Kalba

Paperback - £27.95

Publication date:

15 August 2018

Length of book:

288 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271077024

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.

“A truly fascinating read. The ambition and the broad coverage of [this] book will be unsurpassed for a long time when it comes to analyzing the unstoppable march of color into every facet of modern existence.”

—André Dombrowski,