In 1704, Isaac Newton published his Opticks : Or, A treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of Light. This groundbreaking work synthesized his previous experiments with light into a comprehensive Theory that was the standard for the next 150 years.
One of the first challenges to Newton’s views on color came from Wolfgang von Goethe (yes, that Goethe). He argued that color was not simply a scientific measurement, but a subjective experience perceived differently by each viewer. His work Zur Farbenlehre (Theory of Colors)
was the first systematic study on the physiological effects of color. For many reasons his theory was not accepted by physicists, but his views were very influential on artists. Although Goethe is best known for his poetry and prose, he considered Theory of Colors his most important work.
Find out more about color in our new exhibition Color in a New Light