J. Albers: Interaction of Color

While visiting the Lenbachhaus I was dazzled by the colour combinations of Expressionists. I decided to buy a book called the Interaction of Color by Josef Albers in their book store to get a better understanding of colour usage. It appears to be a great resource from the 60s and 70s. It includes texts and illustrative plates where the effects of colour interactions are shown.

interaction-of-color-50th-anniversary-edition1-666x1024The book focuses heavily on art education. A lot of examples could be used in a classroom straight away. This makes the book great for teachers, but maybe less attractive to the general art appreciator. I considered this a nuisance, but the teaching approach allows you to explore colour interactions step by step.  Furthermore, the chapters are short which allows you to read bit-by-bit.

Of course text appears to be of lesser importance than the supplied coloured plates. The book contains 150(!) illustrative plates were one can see colours interacting. For instance, the following image contains two small brownish squares which are of the same colour, but they are initially perceived differently.


Colours deceive the viewer in numerous ways. Even the “easiest” pieces of art can contain very complicated plays of colour. For instance, by slightly altering a colour one can achieve the trick of painting transparent objects. Or, as shown below one can achieve the illusion of depth by using colour. Hence, the light beam in the right figure appears on top of the bottom grey rectangle but behind the top grey rectangle.


After reading this book you will definitely look at art in a different way.
One will admire the artists that succeed at making colours play with our minds.



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