Saturday, August 10, 2013

Introducing Mr. Roy G. Biv

This post is especially for Adrian and Jeannelle of Iowa (not to be confused with Eleanor of Aquitaine) and Elizabeth Stanforth-Sharpe and Neil Theasby and every one of you who ever took a marvelous photograph and posted it in your blog. It is also for LightExpectations (who is a synesthete) and Helsie in Brisbane and Carol in Cairns (that’s in Far North Queensland, you know) and anyone else who has the least bit of artistic sensibility.

Here are some shades of red:

According to Wikipedia, red is the color of blood, rubies, and strawberries. It is commonly associated with danger, sacrifice, passion, fire, beauty, blood, anger, socialism and communism, and in China and many other cultures, with happiness.

Common connotations of red include love, hate, courage, martyrdom, force, heat, energy, happiness, well-being, aggression, anger, seduction, sexuality, eroticism, immorality, autumn, socialism, communism, passion, beauty, fire, masculinity, danger, blood, Christmas, and war.

Here are some shades of orange:

In Europe and America, orange is commonly associated with amusement, the unconventional, extroverts, fire, activity, danger, taste and aroma, the autumn season, and Protestantism. In Asia, it is an important symbolic colour of Buddhism and Hinduism.

Common connotations of orange include warning, autumn, desire, fire, Halloween, Thanksgiving, prisoners, Orangism (Netherlands), Unionism (Ireland), Indian religions, engineering, determination, compassion, endurance, and optimism.

Here are some shades of yellow:

Yellow is the color of gold, butter, ripe lemons, and ripe bananas. It is commonly associated with gold, sunshine, reason, optimism and pleasure, but also with envy, jealousy and betrayal. It plays an important part in Asian culture, particularly in China.

Common connotations of yellow include sunshine, warmth, fun, happiness, warning, friendship, caution, slow, cowardice, Mardi Gras, summer, lemons, Easter, autumn, spring, electricity, liberalism/libertarianism, hope, optimism, and imagination.

Here are some shades of green:

Green is the color of emeralds, jade, and growing grass. It is the color most commonly associated with nature and the environmental movement, Ireland, Islam, spring, hope, and envy.

Common connotations of green include nature, growth, grass, hope, youth, inexperience, health, sickness, Irish nationalism, Islam, spring, Saint Patrick’s Day, money (US), greed, and envy.

Here are some shades of blue:

Blue is the color of the clear sky and the deep sea.

Common connotations of blue include ice, water, sky, sadness, winter, police, royalty, Hanukkah, boys, cold, calm, magic, trueness, conservatism (outside the US). and liberalism (US).

Now we come to a disputed area, indigo.

Indigo is a color that was traditionally regarded as a color on the visible spectrum and as one of the seven colors of the rainbow: the color between blue and violet. Although traditionally considered one of seven major spectral colors, its actual position in the electromagnetic spectrum is controversial. Indigo is a deep and bright color close to the color wheel blue (a primary color in the RGB color space), as well as to some variants of ultramarine. The color indigo was named after the Indigo dye derived from the plant Indigofera tinctoria and related species. The first recorded use of indigo as a color name in English was in 1289.

This is indigo:

It’s all Isaac Newton’s fault. Isaac Newton introduced indigo as one of the seven colors in his spectrum. In the mid-1660s, when Newton bought a pair of prisms at a fair near Cambridge, the East India Company had begun importing indigo dye into England, supplanting the homegrown woad as the source of blue dye. In a pivotal experiment in the history of optics, the young Newton shone a narrow beam of sunlight through a prism to produce a rainbow-like band of colors on the wall. In describing this optical spectrum, Newton acknowledged that the spectrum had a continuum of colors, but named seven colors: “The originall or primary colours are Red, yellow, Green, Blue, & a violet purple; together with Orange, Indico, & an indefinite varietie of intemediate gradations.”

Indigo is therefore counted as one of the traditional colors of the rainbow, the order of which (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet) is given by the mnemonic Roy G. Biv.

Later scientists have concluded that Newton named the colors differently from current usage. According to Gary Waldman, “A careful reading of Newton’s work indicates that the color he called indigo, we would normally call blue; his blue is then what we would name blue-green or cyan.” The human eye does not readily discriminate among hues in the wavelengths between blue and violet. If this is where Newton meant indigo to lie, most individuals would have difficulty distinguishing indigo from its neighbors. Isaac Asimov said, “It is customary to list indigo as a color lying between blue and violet, but it has never seemed to me that indigo is worth the dignity of being considered a separate color. To my eyes it seems merely deep blue.”

Which brings us to violet.

Here are some shades of violet:

According to surveys in Europe and the United States, violet is the color most commonly associated with the extravagant, the individualist, ambiguity, the unconventional, and the artificial. While violet is the color of humility in the symbolism of the Catholic Church, it has exactly the opposite meaning in general society. A European poll in 2000 showed it was the color most commonly associated with vanity. As a color that rarely exists in nature, and a color which by its nature attracts attention, it is seen as a color of individualism and extravagance. In Chinese painting, the color violet represents the harmony of the universe because it is a combination of red and blue (Yin and yang respectively).

There is much to be found online concerning the difference between violet and purple. Here are some shades of purple (which is not violet):

Here’s my favorite painting with colors in the violet-purple area, April Love (1856), an oil on canvas by the pre-Raphaelite painter Arthur Hughes (1832 - 1915):

The Oxford English Dictionary describes purple as a deep, rich shade between crimson and violet. Wikipedia says the word 'purple' comes from the Old English word purpul which derives from the Latin purpura, in turn from the Greek πορφύρα (porphura), the name of the Tyrian purple dye manufactured in classical antiquity from a mucus secreted by the spiny dye-murex sea snail.

All righty, then.

Is your head swimming yet?

If your head isn’t swimming yet, it will be by the time you finish this article about lavender.

Well, class, that’s enough for one day. More than enough.

Tomorrow (or whenever my next post appears), maybe we’ll talk about black and white. And tan. And grey.


  1. I was wondering if you were going to get to shades of grey.

  2. I think that when; taking into account the mega bucks we ex-rulers pay to Adobe. You should be more color conscious. It's spelt colour. We know it's called Cyan, Despite having dumped serious money into your economy I can't persuade Adobe it's purple.
    I was refused entry into the RAF, I'm colour blind, I could spot your color charts. Easy Peasy they were.

  3. Sir Robert, my head is indeed swimming and I think I will have to reread tomorrow. It brought a smile to my face. I love colour. No, let me put that another way ~ I LOVE COLOUR!! But I am now confused ~ what's a girl to do, to do? Which colour wil she choose? Thanks for cheering me up :)

  4. You are an absolute mine of information you know. Of course you know, you wrote it all. I'm laughing at Mary Z's comment alot here. My favourite colour has always been purple, so I'm glad it has featured, and all the gladder that you posted a Pre-Raphaelite painting, as that era has some of my most loved paintings that have ever been created. Here in Manchester, in the main art gallery, we have a great many of them which I have sat and looked at happily time after time. Fitting to this pots the colours alone are stunning.

  5. I'm entranced! This is a post to be read and re-read, to learn from and ponder and revel in!

    One of the frustrations of being a synesthete is that I cannot replicate in real-life, the colors I see in my mind. You have created a beautiful column of color.

    Blessings (incidentally, that is a pale orange and pink word)

  6. My thanks to each person who commented on this post. Each of you seems to like it for a different reason. As for me, I'm just very pleased that you like it at all.

    One never really knows how one's post will be received. In this one I borrowed liberally from Wikipedia. To be more precise, I took parts of it apart and then re-assembled the parts in a different way, rather like starting out with an ocean liner and ending up with a rowboat.

  7. Thank you for your advice about colours. But who is that Neil Theasby fellow you refer to? Never heard of him! Must be a figment of your colourful imagination!

  8. Wow, quite a post. I made the painting my desktop.

  9. Yorkshire Pudding, Neil Theasby is a poor, unfortunate waif of indeterminate years who lives in the backwaters of what was once a very great nation and longs for the vibrant colours, images, and fleshpots of his youth among the islanders of the Pacific, his middle age among the moai of Easter Island and the tuk-tuk drivers of Bangkok, and his old age, in which he has now been reduced to hiking aimlessly about the countryside looking for the pubs of yesteryear.

  10. I love the painting . It is very nice.

  11. A Lady's Life, I liked it at first sight, but I really should have included Gainesborough's The Blue Boy in this post!

  12. Sir Robert, I went for Yellow today. Thank You for motivating all of us to be our best :)