The Experimental Psychology of Beauty

By C. W. Valentine | Go to book overview

Chapter II COLOUR AND COLOUR PREFERENCES

The power of colour as a source of delight is a matter of common knowledge. Many people, including famous painters and art critics, will say that it is the beauty of the colours that appeals to them most in certain paintings, for example some by Van Gogh or Turner. Even the colour of a patternless wall paper may be found delightful and described as "beautiful".

Some have thought that the influence of colour can be traced largely to associations built up in our own experience. Thus the red and yellow are said to impress us as warm colours, because they have been associated often with the light of the sun or the heat of the fire; green may be said to appear restful to the busy townsman, because associated with the quite peace of the country, and so on.


The influence of associations

We shall presently discuss more fully the possible influence of associations, conscious or unconscious, on the appreciation of colour, but here we may readily agree that there are probably deep set associations whose origins we have long forgotten. The pleasure of a given blue may be due to the faint revival of happy experiences under blue skies though we may not remember them, nor even think of a blue sky. Observations and experiments have shown that we may have a feeling, similar to one we experienced when we saw a given object, even when that object itself is not recalled. Thus we cannot necessarily conclude that vague associations are not at work when a colour pleases us, merely because we cannot trace them. We may speak of these as unconscious associations.


General associations

Under this heading we may include those associations of which we are conscious, but which are not dependent upon experiences which

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