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    Mastering Color Series – The psychology and evolution of the GREEN color and its use in photography

    The post Mastering Color Series – The psychology and evolution of the color GREEN and its use in photography first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Megan Kennedy.

    The Spanish playwright, poet and writer Pedro Calderón de la Barca once said: "green is the primary color of the world, and that which gives rise to its beauty". From the perspective of a beloved frog, however, it is not that easy to be green. On the visible spectrum, green takes up the space between blue and yellow. In color theory, it is a secondary color, made by blending blue and yellow. Here we will look at the evolution of greenery and its impact on art from antiquity to the present.

    The psychology of green

    The strongest psychological associations of Green lie in the natural environment. The word green comes from the Middle English and Old English words Grene, which has the same root as the words grass and increase. Many people respond to nature and therefore to green itself, with a sense of calmness and innovation. According to a recent study, exposure to green spaces in childhood can provide important mental health benefits in adolescence and adulthood. Another study suggests that "the availability and quality of green neighborhoods in the neighborhood is accompanied by more well-being".

    The association of Green with nature has led to the adoption of greenery as an emblem for environmental movements. Fresh green in the spring and the steady growth of plant life has promoted associations with greenery and rebirth and determination. The green text about early computer systems, on the other hand, has cultivated links between green, modernity and the digital landscape. The film The Matrix has promoted this association.

    When the United States government started issuing cash in 1861, the bills were printed with a green-black ink. This has promoted associations between green and money. Due to its reflective nature, neon green is often used for safety equipment, clothing and signage. Due to the vibration quality, neon green also has a major influence on psychedelic art.

    A belief of the ancient Greeks that the overproduction of bile (which is typically a dark green to yellowish brown liquid) was a symptom of jealousy, has drawn associations between greenery, jealousy, and disease. Poeticized by William Drennan as the "Emerald Isle," Ireland is associated with the color green because of its lush green landscapes. In China, green is associated with the east, spring and generative energy. For many Native American peoples, greenery symbolizes endurance. Green is the holy color of Islam and represents Mohammed. In South America, however, green can be a symbol of death.

    The evolution of the color green

    Malachite, green earth and copper green

    While prehistoric artists used a pallet consisting of red, yellow, black, brown and white, greens and blue were strikingly absent in early art. Decorative ceramics made by ancient Mesopotamians depict some of the earliest examples of greenery in visual arts. However, the method for producing these greens is unknown.

    Mined in western Sinai and the eastern desert, ancient Egyptians adorned tombs and papyrus with finely ground blue-green malachite pigment. Referring to the hereafter as the Malachite region, the ancient Egyptians wore the crushed mineral around their eyes to ward off evil. Moderately lightfast but very sensitive to acids, and varying in stage consistency, the use of malachite in art continued into the 19th century. The Egyptians also used green earth pigments or mixed yellow ocher with blue azurite to form green hues.

    Originating near Verona in Italy and on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, the Romans used green earth as decoration. According to the blog Eclectic Light Company, green earth pigments have also been found in paintings from North America and the Indian subcontinent. Although there is a lack of intensity, green earth has been used to this day. Perhaps, however, the best-known use is in the under-painting of skin tones during the Middle Ages.

    The Romans also used verdigris as a source of green pigment. Verdigris occurs naturally when copper, brass or bronze is exposed to air or seawater over time. Deliberately cultivated by soaking copper plates in fermenting wine and collecting the resulting residue, verdigris was the liveliest green that was available until the 19th century.

    Scheele ' s green

    The Green van Scheele was invented in 1775 by chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele and was the first to contain arsenic in its composition. Although it faded quickly, Scheele ' s green was considered superior to previous paints because of its liveliness. It was used in a range of applications from food paints to artists' paints. Needless to say, Scheeles green was very toxic and carcinogenic. Both manufacturers and consumers became ill or died from exposure to the deadly pigment.

    Cobalt green

    In 1780, the Swedish chemist Sven Rinman developed a process that resulted in a cobalt-green compound of cobalt and zinc. Arthur Herbert Church, a British chemist, published Rinmann's trial in his book, the Chemistry of Paints and Painting, in which he stated that cobalt green was created by "precipitating a mixture of cobalt and zinc nitrates with alkaline carbonate and then strong heating (after washing) of the precipitate formed ".

    "If it is well prepared," the church continued, "cobalt green is a pigment of great beauty and power." Despite the ability to vary the ratio of zinc to cobalt oxide in production, the pigment was never pure green, giving it a blue tint. Moreover, the high costs and poor coloring power of cobalt green meant that it was used by artists to a limited extent.

    Paris green

    Paris green is also known as emerald green. In 1814 it became commercially available, Paris green was used as a pigment as well as a rodenticide and insecticide. Offering more sustainability and saturation than Scheele ' s green, Paris green turned out to be popular with artists such as Monet and Van Gogh. Ranging from a light blue to a dark green, green Paris, relativity was cheap to manufacture. It was also used as household paint and as decorative wallpaper. Highly toxic, it was discontinued in the second half of the twentieth century.


    Elected to keep their methodology secret, Viridian was first produced by chemists Pannetier and Binet in Paris around 1838. It took another 20 years for chemist Guignet to patent a process to produce Viridian, making the pigment available to artists.

    Viridian takes its name from the Latin word viridis, meaning green. A dark shade of spring green, Viridian sits between green and teal on the color wheel. The brilliance of Viridian, the excellent permanence and the lack of toxicity meant that it soon overshadowed all other green pigments. Easily taken over by Edvard Munch, Monet and Van Gogh, the rich blue-green hues of viridian remain in use today.

    Green in the visual arts

    Green's presence in art history bears witness to her suggestive associations with nature and life. Cultivated by the flood of the Nile River, ancient Egyptians recognized the green of flowering crops as a symbol of rebirth. Osiris, the ancient Egyptian god of the underworld and rebirth, was depicted with a green skin color and the hieroglyph for the color green was represented by the stalk of the papyrus.

    During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, clothing color marked social rank and occupation. Green was worn by traders, bankers and gentlemen. Both the Mona Lisa and the bride in Jan van Eyck's Arnolfini portrait are depicted in green, an indication of their status.

    Using refined greens in the Renaissance, Baroque artists conveyed moments of movement and drama with rich green hues. The rococo art movement defined dreamy green landscapes populated by the well-to-do, while the green hues in 19th-century realism reflected the somber reality of middle and lower class society. In contrast, pre-raphaelite artists used green to portray beautiful clothing and foliage.

    By capturing the interplay between light and movement, green got a new life under the strokes of the impressionist's brush. Expressionist artists valued emotion in reality and used greenery to convey new artistic possibilities, in their disruptions and exaggerations. Cubists used green as a tool to relieve the gravity of their compositions and later abstract artists such as Mark Rothko and Helen Frankenthaler demonstrated the immersive nature of green through green tones on active canvases.

    Green in contemporary art

    Contemporary examples of greenery used in art are just as varied and unique as greenery itself. In 1970, Bruce Nauman erected two walls, placed them 12 centimeters apart, and hung green lights above the opening. Encouraged to walk through the claustrophobic space, members of the audience were immersed in green fluorescence as they shuffled.

    In 1998, Olafur Eliasson used a sodium salt variant of fluorescein, called uranine, to give the waterways in Germany, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Japan and the US a vibrant green color. He called his efforts the Green River Project.

    In 2016, Norwegian artist Per Kristian Nygard transformed an Oslo gallery into an organic work of art. Spreading soil and grass seed over a wooden frame covered with plastic sheeting, cultivated Per Kristian Nygard Not red but green, a contemplative piece that investigates the exchange between architecture and nature.

    Green in photography

    The associations of Green are still depicted in both film and digital photographic formats. The Australian duo Prue Stent and Honey Long combine photography with performance, installation and sculpture and investigate the relationship between the human body and nature. Stent and Long ' s Bush Babies series blends the green of the natural environment with the nakedness of the human body.

    An overarching theme in Narelle Autio's photography is the study of human interaction in green spaces. Namia Green ' s portraits of black and brown subjects against lush greenery reflects the photographer's rejection of the scary representation of black people in art. Photographed by Steve McCurry, the famous green eyes of the Afghan girl (Sharbat Gula) are both spooky and spooky and pierced the gaze of a viewer. Ren Hang (link NSFW), known for his sexually expressive images, often relied on green for contrast, context and life.

    Landscape and architecture photographer Andreas Gursky often uses green as a visual break in his work. Fashion photographer Miles Aldridge uses green as a surreal brush with the surreal. Signaling hours, locations and atmosphere, macro photographers such as Tomas Shahan characterize greenery as an inevitable background for their miniscule natural subjects. And the dynamic work of Pep Ventosa sees green as a dominant presence in her series In the Round, Trees.

    Green also has applications on the camera. In black and white photography, green filters are mainly used for photographing plants, separating green foliage from brightly colored flowers. In landscape photography, green filters illuminate organic greens, giving an image a more natural appearance.


    Despite the late arrival on the artist's pallet, the versatility of green is reflected in the many connotations. Associated with renewal and rebirth, green has also been associated with the digital landscape, money, jealousy and illness. From ancient art to contemporary visual culture, green has determined our understanding of the environment around us. With an immeasurable depth and abundance, green is the color of nature and life.

    Share your photos with green in the comments below.

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    The post Mastering Color Series – The psychology and evolution of the color GREEN and its use in photography first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Megan Kennedy.

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