The emperor of all colours

As the sun melts the city into a blazing hot yellow, we explore some of the world-famous paintings done in this hue by several artists.

Published: 18th May 2017 06:09 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th May 2017 06:09 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

HYDERABAD: “The sound of colours is so definite that it would be hard to find anyone who would express bright yellow with base notes, or dark lake with the treble,” said famous artist Wassily Kandinsky. It’s noteworthy that he talks about the refulgent of all colours – yellow that is. But why yellow?

What is it about this bright hue that has enchanted both the artists and the art aficionados for centuries? Well, by the time 19th century ended, if one colour represented depravity it was yellow symbolising demi monde in Europe and related subjects. It’s only later that a lot of artists chose to focus on the colour itself rather than what brush strokes dipped in yellow brought onto the canvas. 


Even way back in 15th century artists like Pieter Bruegel painted an opus like ‘Harvesters’ focussing on the hay festival showing wind-bent golden wheat crops lying abundantly while some of the workers rest around the adjoining trees.

The paintings on hay are part of a series of six works that define seasons of the year. Antwerp merchant Niclaes Jongelinck had commissioned it from the Flemish artist.

He lived at the rise of Renaissance and it’s clear the painting is bereft of any religious subject which means he’s defying what others bowed to.

It’s only incidental that the colour he chose to paint his work with is yellow. In its full brightness the colour announces the arrival of newness both in approach and thinking.


Who painted the colour better than Vincent Van Gogh in the work ‘Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers’? Or the ripe fields. Even when he died in the year 1890, several flowers, including sunflowers were kept near his death-bed.  Even the house where the artist lived along with the Post Impressionist  artist Paul Gaugin he painted a lot of sunflower paintings working day and night on his opuses till the sunflowers wilted. He even painted the yellow house, in southern France, under a clear-blue sky. 

But it was Gustav Klimt, the Austrian artist, who made yellow an eternal colour with his portraits of a lady and the famous painting ‘The Kiss’. Interestingly, the artist used a lot of gold leaves and oil paint to give that glowing layer to his paintings that seem to glitter from within the layers of paints.  

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