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Art 100:
Introduction to Art History


 Itten's Contrast

7 KInds of Contrast

Johannes Itten pioneered research into the systematic organization of color and its effects. The results of his work were the creation of seven methodologies for the coordination of color using the contrasting properties of hues. The definitions are taken from The Theory of Colors by Johannes Itten.


The pure color (hue) contrast

This results when pure colors are used in random combinations. White and black can further enhance the vivid effect.

example The Living Brain, cover of a Spiderman Comic.

The contrast of saturation

This is the contrast between luminous and dull colors. Colors can be subdued by the addition of black, white, gray or complementary colors.

example New Born Babe by Georges de la Tour


The contrast of light and dark

This is based on the use of different values of dark and light. The contrast of dark and light can be exploited with color as well since all colors can be tinted with white and shaded with black.

Example Le Noeud, study: Georges Seurat

Example The Madonna of the Meadows by Raphael


The contrast of complements

Complementary colors occupy opposite positions on the color wheel. When they are mixed, the result is a neutral gray-black. When adjacent, complementary colors mutually intensify their luminosity to a maximum.

example The Night Cafe by Vincent van Gogh


The contrast of warm and cool

The contrast is formed by the juxtaposition of hues considered 'warm' or 'cool.' This is often the easiest contrast to achieve a perceived a 3D effect due to the advancing and receding characteristics of most warm colors in relation to cool colors.

example The Burning of the Houses of Parliament by JMW Turner

Example La Belle Verriere, Chartres Cathedral

The contrast of quantity

They are the result of the juxtaposition of little and much, small and large. The surface devoted to each color influences their impact on compositions. Creating balanced compositions calls for more than devoting equal space to each color. The brightness and saturation of each hue must also be taken into account. The lighter a hue, the greater its impact and the lower its need for space. The more saturated or bright the color is, the more powerful is its effect.

example The Joy of Life by Henri Matisse

Simoultaneous contrast

In such cases, colors seem to repel one another and vibrate as the eye tries to bring them closer to their precise complementary colors. The use of such contrasts makes color compositions livelier and more interesting.

example Poster by Wes Wilson





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