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Into the Homestretch. Reading David Batchelor’s Chromophobia. Chromophobia is a hard read. David Batchelor’s book contains a host of intellectual and literary references. You may not be acquainted with the authors/artists he mentions. Take in slow and look up unfamiliar names.

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Into the Homestretch

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into the homestretch

Into the Homestretch

Reading David Batchelor’sChromophobia

chromophobia is a hard read
Chromophobiais a hard read.
  • David Batchelor’s book contains a host of intellectual and literary references.
  • You may not be acquainted with the authors/artists he mentions.
  • Take in slow and look up unfamiliar names
chromophobia is designed to provocative
Chromophobia is designed to provocative.
  • It may make you mad or want to disagree. That’s fine and we can discuss the validity of his premise.
batchelor s thesis
Batchelor’s Thesis
  • The central argument of Chromophobia is that a chromophobic impulse – a fear of corruption or contamination through colour – lurks within much Western cultural and intellectual thought.
  • This is apparent in the many and varied attempts to purge colour, either by making it the property of some foreign body – the oriental, the feminine, the infantile, the vulgar, or the pathological – or by relegating it to the realm of the superficial, the supplementary, the inessential, or the cosmetic.
  • Chromophobiahas been a cultural phenomenon since ancient Greek times; this book is concerned with the motivations behind chromophobia and with forms of resistance to it.
  • Batchelorconsiders the work of a wide range of writers and artists and explores diverse imagery including Herman Melville's ‘Great White Whale’, Aldous Huxley's ‘Reflections on Mescaline’, Le Corbusier's Journey to the East and L Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz. Batchelor also discusses the use of colour in Pop, Minimal, and more recent art.
consider how suspiciousness of color operates in our own culture
Consider how suspiciousness of color operates in our own culture.
  • Try and paint your house pink in America. How is this different from painting your house pink in Mexico City? Why?
  • Think of the term “white collar”, and all that it conveys.
  • Why would people of African descent be called “coloured” and pale pinkish people be called “white?”
video on david batchelor s work
Video on David Batchelor’s work

Influences on Batchelor’s work:

  • Urban environments: artificial and petroleum based colors
  • Minimalism, Light and Space Movement, and Conceptual Art of the 1960s
minimalism conceptualism sol lewitt s white cubes mathematical purity of white
Minimalism/Conceptualism: Sol Lewitt’s White Cubes = Mathematical Purity of White


Color and the West

renaissance debate florence and venice
Renaissance Debate Florence and Venice
  • Florence, Georgio Vasari, Disegno/Drawing, Michelangelo
  • Giorgio Vasari, a Florentine artist and writer, described disegno as the father and foundation of all the visual arts, "the animating principle of all creative processes." For the Florentines and other Central Italian artists, the act of drawing was not only the art of using line to define form: it was the artistic underpinning of a work whereby an artist could express his inner vision. Florentine painters therefore used drawing to study movement, anatomy and the natural world, and they developed compositions in detailed drawings before transferring them to surfaces prepared for painting.
venice lodovico dolce color titian
Venice, Lodovico Dolce, Color, Titian
  • According to Lodovico Dolce, Venetian artists gradually softened their coloring until their manner equaled nature. Rather than beginning with careful drawings, Venetian painters often worked out compositions directly on the canvas, using layered patches of colored brushstrokes rather than line to define form. Venetian drawings show an interest in how light will affect a body and how color will describe it in a painting.
venice tintoretto sketch of michelangelo titian and workshop venus and the lute player
Venice: Tintoretto (sketch of Michelangelo)Titian and Workshop, Venus and the Lute Player

Johann Joachim Winkelmann – NeoClassicism, an art movement inspired by Grecco-Roman Antiquity that reached its height in the 18th and 19th centuries.

  • The artist must conceive with warmth yet execute with coolness.”
Winckelmann, Johann Joachim.

“Unity and simplicity are the two true sources of beauty.”
Winckelmann, Johann Joachim.
Charles Blanc 1813-1882Theorist and Writer, Director of Arts

“Supposing the painter had only ideas to express, he would perhaps need only drawing and the mono-chrome of chiaro 'scuro for with them he can represent the only figure that thinks, - the human figure, which is the chef d'oeuvre of a designer rather than the work of a colorist. With drawing and chiaro 'scuro he can also put in relief all that depends upon intelligent life, that is life in its relation to other lives, but there are features of organic, of interior and individual life that could not be manifested without color. How for instance without color give, in the expression of a young girl, that shade of trouble or sadness so well expressed by the pallor of the brow, or the emotion of modesty that makes her blush? Here we recognize the power of color, and that its role is to tell us what agitates the heart, while drawing shows us what passes in the mind, a new proof of what we affirmed at the beginning of this work, that drawing is the masculine side of art, color the feminine.”

  • Drawing from antique casts
  • Systematic and scientific use of color
  • Controlled color through scientific knowledge.
Irony – Blanc’s writings on color influenced Van Gogh and Seurat, although Blanc was hostile to Impressionism and Post-Impressionism

A case study – El AnatsuiEl Anatsui is a Ghanaian sculptor who has spent most of his life in Nigeria. His works use simple, often recycled objects to create colorful tapestries and sculpture. Here they are on site in Africa.