Value vs Colour

Posted by James Napier on

One of the profound limitations we have as painters is the dilemma of value vs. colour. The highest and lowest value pigments are profoundly grey, as in lacking chroma. In order to reach these extreme values we must add white or black to a colour. In doing this we severely diminish the chroma of our colour as we move up and down in the value scale. Adding to this, early painters only had access to low chroma pigments. This naturally led to the classical solution to this problem, that of ‘painting for value’. These early painters purposely limited their chromatic range in order to maximise the expressive range of their values, painting in single point light sources and eliminating as much ambient light as possible to maximise this range. Painting in this way maximises the sense of bulk and grounded reality. Above we see a beautiful example of this style in this wonderful academic study by Albert Edelfelt. Note the quiet colour harmonies and highly-contrasting values. #colour #colourharmony #oilpainting #edelfelt