Psychologist Studies How Colors Used in Painting Have Changed Over 200 Years

Contemporary artists use more blue and green than artists of the past.

Martin Bellander, a PhD student in psychology at the Karolinska Institutet, published a visualization of how colors used in painting have changed from 1800 to 2000. Bellander analyzed 94,526 paintings from a BBC site Your Paintings.

The study shows that in the past artists preferred orange color, but now the tendency is to use more blue. From 1920 the quantity of warm tones has rapidly decreased and those tones were replaced with green and blue.


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Bellander thinks the results may be caused simultaneously by a couple of factors. First, he suggests that the aging of resins has changed the color of 19th century oil paintings. Second, prices for pigments used for colors were different in the past. Blue was expensive than yellow, so it was used less.

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