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Journal of the Optical Society of America

Journal of the Optical Society of America

  • Vol. 34, Iss. 12 — Dec. 1, 1944
  • pp: 759–764

Notes on the Problem of Color Harmony and the Geometry of Color Space

ARTHUR POPE  »View Author Affiliations

JOSA, Vol. 34, Issue 12, pp. 759-764 (1944)

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ARTHUR POPE, "Notes on the Problem of Color Harmony and the Geometry of Color Space," J. Opt. Soc. Am. 34, 759-764 (1944)

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  1. P. Moon and D. E. Spencer, "Geometric formulation of classical color harmony," J. Opt. Soc. Am. 34, 46 (1944); "Area in color harmony," J. Opt. Soc. Am. 34, 93 (1944); "Aesthetic measure applied to color harmony," J. Opt. Soc. Am. 34, 234 (1944).
  2. See A. Pope, An Introduction to the Language of Drawing and Painting, Vol. I, The Painter's Terms (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1929), especially Chapters I–III.
  3. Based on G. D. Birkhoff, Aesthetic Measure (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1933).
  4. T. M. Greene, The Arts and the Art of Criticism (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1940), p. 89n.
  5. Reference 4, p. 218.
  6. Cf. also A. Pope, A Quantitative Theory of Aesthetic Values, Art Studies (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1925).
  7. I am a little doubtful as to the significance of some of these—isotints for example; but, in some circumstances at least, some have, I believe, definite value. It may be of interest that in The Painter's Terms (reference 2) I suggested that much of the harmony of color in the later painting of Monet and Renoir and in that of Dodge MacKnight is attributable to the use of colors all between "full color" and white—uniform "isotones"—or approximately that. The uniformity of the "shadow series" is what occurs under ordinary circumstances as objects model from light into shadow [cf. A. Pope, Introduction to the Language of Drawing and Painting, Vol. II, The Painter's Modes of Expression (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1931), pp. 11–15]. On account of the limitation of "black" paint this can be represented in painting only in a relative fashion. The observation of the principle involved in this, however, is responsible for the illusion of air and space in paintings like those of Van Eyck and Vermeer. The "shadow series" of Ostwald seems to me identical with saturation as the term is sometimes used (and very naturally thought of) even by scientific writers. Luckiesh, for instance, writes: "By the admixture of black to a color (in effect the same as reducing the intensity of illumination) the brightness is diminished without altering either the hue or the saturation." [Luckiesh, Color and Its Application (D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., New York, 1915), p. 80; also cf. Morton C. Bradley, Jr., Systems of Color Classification, Technical Studies VI, pp. 240–276 (1938); also cf. A. Pope, The Painter's Terms, pp. 50–58.] Many years ago, in a paper I read at a meeting of the Optical Society of America, I tried to point out the significance of this factor, as distinguished from chroma, and also of what I called, for want of a better word, "total brightness"—the equivalent of Ostwald's "isotone"; but there seemed to be no one at the time who could understand what I was talking about.
  8. Morton C. Bradley, Jr., A Theory of Tone Attraction, Technical Studies (Fogg Museum of Art, Cambridge, 1933), Vol. II, p. 3.

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