An Investigation Into the Use of Color As a Device to Convey Memes During The Little Ice Age
Peter A. White
Master of Arts, College of Performing and Visual Arts School of Art & Design, University of Northern Colorado, December (2010)
Color is used as a tool in visual communication to express ideas in a symbolic fashion. It can also be used as a guide to assist the viewer in the visual narrative. Artwork created in the period of time between 1300 to 1850 in northern and central Europe provides a comprehensive perspective in the use of color as symbol and color as an elucidative devise. This period of time is known as the Little Ice Age, the duration of which spans European history between the Medieval period and the Romantic era. The extreme climatic conditions of this era caused profound changes in society on many levels and influenced the use of color in paintings throughout this chapter in history. The new paradigm of the science of ideas, called memetics, provides a framework to analyze the expression of ideas through the use of color within this span of time.
In 2003, the Glyptothek Museum in Munich displayed plaster caste copies of Greek statues in its collection in conjunction with the original sculptures (Gurewitsch, 2008). The austere beauty of a selection of the Glyptothek collection were contrasted against the copies that were, by contrast, painted in highly saturated primary and secondary colors. This was not a promotional stunt by the museum to garner attention, but a serious intellectual comparison between the originals in their present condition and copies, which represented their appearance in a pristine state. Over the last 25 years, the German archeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann compiled archaeological and chemical evidence to support the proposition that ancient Greek and Roman statuary were elaborately decorated with many colors over their entire surface. His painted replicas at the Glyptothek Museum were a demonstration of their original appearance as Brinkmann’s research revealed (Gurewitsch, 2008). Marble sculpture from classical antiquity were thought to have been correctly interpreted as an idealized representation of its subject.