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Conn 375: The Art & Science of Color

Learning Activity

One approach to exploring a color is to start with a primary source. Examples include:

  • Objects
  • Animals
  • Plants
  • Works of art

Examine the painting to the right and identify how this image could be used to identify different perspectives on the color yellow. What questions might an artist ask? A psychologist? A scientist?

Here's the information about the painting:

Artist: Vincent Van Gogh

Title: Sunflowers

Date: 1888

Materials: Oil on canvas



Examples of questions from different disciplinary perspectives:

How do we see yellow? Why does yellow stand out as a color?

Why are sunflowers yellow?

What are the moods and meanings that yellow conveys?

How did Van Gogh achieve his bright yellow?

Why was Van Gogh fascinated with bright yellows in his painting? Was it used to alleviate his melancholy? Did he use it to capture light?

How is yellow used as a color of artistic expression?



Examples of Articles

Chapman, Mark A., et al. "Genetic Analysis Of Floral Symmetry In Van Gogh's Sunflowers Reveals Independent Recruitment Of CYCLOIDEA Genes In The Asteraceae." Plos Genetics 8.3 (2012): 1-10

Monico, Letizia, et al. "Evidence For Degradation Of The Chrome Yellows In Van Gogh's Sunflowers: A Study Using Noninvasive In Situ Methods And Synchrotron-Radiation-Based X-Ray Techniques." Angewandte Chemie (International Ed. In English) 54.47 (2015): 13923-13927.

McDonnell, Peter J. "Seeing yellow." Ophthalmology Times 15 Jan. 2012: 4

Borges, Renee M. "Pictures At An Exhibition: Bees View Van Gogh's Sunflowers." Journal Of Biosciences 31.5 (2006): 503-505

Walsh, Meeka. "Where The Use Of Yellow—." Border Crossings 21.1 (2002): 6-7. 

Strasnick, Stephanie. "How Many Light Bulbs Does It Take To Discolor A Van Gogh?." Artnews 112.4 (2013): 63