Saw ‘Polychromy’ at the Met. So interesting how color has been erased from “Western” history.

Carl Jennings: Color is a code, a sign, a message – we use it to communicate and in turn, it has the power to shape how we think and feel. For the last 500 years or so… to be civilized is to eschew color, to resist its temptations and its charms. As Goethe observed of his times, nearly 200 years ago, “… savage nations, uneducated people, and children have a great predilection for vivid colors… people of refinement avoid vivid colours in their dress”. And Charles Blanc, the French Minister of Culture, expressing a sentiment shared by many scholars and art historians, over the perceived opposition between line and color in art, stated in 1848 that, “…colour is the peculiar characteristic of the lower forms of nature, while drawing becomes the medium of expression, more and more dominant, the higher we rise in the scale of being”.

These quotes belie a sentiment common in Western culture and eloquently documented in David Batchelor’s fascinating book on the topic, a sentiment that sees color as “something for children, savages, minorities, and women”: a loathing and a fear of color that he calls — chromophobia.

But it wasn’t always this way. The history of the west is nothing if not colorful — but very little of that evidence exists nowadays. Color has either faded with time and the elements, or it has been purposefully removed and whitewashed. The Greek and Roman statues of antiquity, pure and ethereal in their whiteness, are an illusion. They were never white. Instead, they were painted, in great and often garish detail.

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