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The Peril of Yellow


Sunny yellow has, paradoxically, been the most poisonous colour on the artist's palette. It's happy, golden appearance belies the perils of using, and making, it. At worst, it has driven artists mad and cows to a painful death.

Yellow is not always evocative of golden sunlight and sunflowers. Many cultures regard yellow with distaste: as the colour of treachery and cowardice. To Franz Marc it symbolised femininity; to Wassily Kandinsky it had to be a triangle!

Yellow has come into its own now as a primary colour, but artists could only use it as such from the late 1900s, and with mixed results. Modern chromes left many Post-Impressionist paintings a drab brown version of their original vibrant selves.

From costly gold to deathly orpiment, fetid Indian yellow to heavy metals, we will look at paintings from across Western art to discover the symbolism, science and psychology of 'The Peril of Yellow'.

(The three colours make an excellent study day)