Saturday, July 28, 2012

Imaginative color in 19th Century Fantasy Art - Part 2 Under Water Colors

Last time that I spoke of imaginative color I stated that the invention of the camera and its widespread use for artistic reference as well as the effect of living in a world saturated with photography had severely limited the color imagination of artists.  By deferring to the authority of the camera to capture “Reality”, most post 19th century artists allow themselves to be bound by unnecessary limits on their color imagination.

Reality versus Imagination. An Underwater photo and "La Sirène" by Albert Maignan

The invention of color underwater photography, along with the ease with which people can take up skin diving and can see the real effects of deep water on light and color, has led to the stultifying of the imaginative use of color in underwater paintings.  Because in the real world, light attenuates as you dive deeper and the color range of that light is constricted more and more towards the blue green range many artists, in an attempt to achieve realism, allow their palettes to become constricted as well. Deep sea photographs always look too much like green tinted black and white photos.

"Ophilia" by Steck
Albert Guillaume's "Amour Profond". The color sketch and the finish (B & W photo).

What many forget is that in the “Fantasy World” (a real place with its own system of physical rules) color behaves in a totally unrestrained way in order to heighten the magic of the environment. 19th century artists were free to exercise their imagination because “Science” had not intruded to hold them back.

Auguste Leveque obviously allows no constraint on his imagination.
Charles Courtney Curran "A Deep Sea Fantasy".  

Although Curran does skew the colors in the direction of the blues, he still maintains some of the non blue tones to keep the painting from seeming monochrome.

Ilya Repin's "Sadko In The Underwater Kingdom".
This is one of my paintings circa 2010. "Coronation" by Richard Hescox