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Goethe: The Story of Colour

How colour affects our mood and thoughts: Goethe's views from his monumental Theory of Colours. With Bridget Kendall, Alexandra Loske, Victoria Finlay and Odette Steele

The German polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe considered his monumental book known in English as The Theory of Colours to be his greatest achievement. The book is a record of hundreds of Goethe's observations about the way colour affects our mood, as well as a long and heated polemic with Isaac Newton's colour theory. Goethe's understanding of light and colour was scientifically flawed yet his book had a surprisingly strong influence on the fine and applied arts. To find out why, Bridget Kendall talks to art historian Alexandra Loske, colour writer Victoria Finlay and designer Odette Steele.

Alexandra Loske is an art historian who teaches at the University of Sussex, Curator at the Royal Pavilion and Brighton Museums, editor of the book Languages of Colour and author of Palette (forthcoming);

Victoria Finlay is a writer, former arts editor of the South China Morning Post and the author of Colour, Travels through the Paintbox and The Brilliant History of Color in Art;

Odette Steele is a Zambian textile designer recent and a graduate from the London College of Fashion at the University of the Arts, London.

Photo: Goethe’s colour wheel, 1809. (Credit: Freies Deutsches Hochstift / Frankfurter Goethe-Museum)

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41 minutes

Werner's Nomenclature Of Colours. Image courtesy of the Royal College of Art, London.

Werner's Nomenclature Of Colours. Image courtesy of the Royal College of Art, London.

Lapis lazuli

Lapis lazuli

Cinnabar and vermilion

Cinnabar and vermilion

Maasai choker

Maasai choker

Cochineal insects and dye

Cochineal insects and dye

Hand-painted wallpaper from the Royal Pavilion, Brighton

Hand-painted wallpaper from the Royal Pavilion, Brighton

Melange by Odette Steele

Melange by Odette Steele

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