Every year, colour patron company Pantone makes its pick to crown one of their innovative and unique pigments Colour of the Year. With 2018 closing in very quickly, we are looking back at this year’s titleholder, Ultra Violet, and searching for it in Modern Art history.

Official promotional picture of Ultra Violet (pantone.com)

Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute Leatrice Eisemann said in regards to Ultra Violet:

We are living in a time that requires inventiveness and imagination. It is this kind of creative inspiration that is indigenous to PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra violet, a blue-based purple that takes our awareness and potential to a higher level. From exploring new technologies and the greater galaxy, to artistic expression and spiritual reflection, intuitive Ultra Violet lights the way to what is yet to come.

By choosing Ultra Violet, Pantone made a bold colour choice for the year 2018; the colour screams many things including innovation, imagination and spirituality. The colour communicates originality, ingenuity and visionary thinking towards the future. It is a strong and deep purple that has a vibrant blue base making it exactly on the edge between being a cool and a warm colour. This suggests more versatility, more variations and choices.

The colour has also been used for centuries in the art world. And as a final adieu to the titleholder, let us look back at some of its many appearances in modern art:

Pablo Picasso – Portrait of Woman (1931):

Pablo Picasso, Portrait Of Woman, Oil on canvas, 100 x 81cm, 1931, France, (www.focusonpicasso.com)

In this 1942 monochromatic violet painting, Picasso creates a surrealist and flat portrait. Thick black lines distinguish the background from the foreground. Whereas the use of yellow lines -which is violet’s complimentary- surrounding the woman’s figure, brings her forward in this otherwise, flat composition.

Jeff Koons – Balloon Rabbit (violet):

Jeff Koons, Balloon Rabbit (Violet), Transparent color coating on stainless steel, 426.7×271.8×205.1 cm, 2005-2010 USA, (www.jeffkoons.com)

In his Celebration Series, Koons presets sculptures of happy go lucky party favors that allude joy. His signature style of mirror-polishing coloured stainless steel takes over the entire series.

Henri Matisse – Polynesia:

Henri Matisse, Polynesia (The Sky), Lithograph on Paper Plate , 27×39 inches, 1946, (www.art-Matisse.com)

After his life changing cancer operation of 1941, Matisse found himself too sick to continue painting with his paint and brushes. He then began exploring his capabilities as a collage artist, working with painted papers and a pair of scissors to create humongous compositions. Years before that, in 1930 Matisse embarked on a journey on the other side of the hemisphere in search of ‘pure light’. Following Gauguin’s footsteps, he landed on the island of Tahiti, in French Polynesia for his artistic pilgrimage. Echoes of this trip can be seen in Matisse’s later work of late 1940’s up until his death. In his work, Polynesia, The Sky, Matisse portrayed the island life through the colours of the ocean and sky, with free spirited birds flying around the paper-cut composition.

Jeff Koons – Cracked Egg (violet):

Jeff Koons, Cracked Egg (Violet), Transparent color coating on stainless steel, 165.1 x 159.1 x 159.1 cm, 1994-2006, USA, (www.jeffkoons.com)

Another piece of his Celebration Series, is Cracked Egg. Here, Koons plays with the fragile nature of the eggshell to explore different themes, while ironically, creating an eggshell that is indestructible.

Van Gogh –Irises:

Vincent Van Gogh, Purple Irises, Oil on canvas, 71 cm × 93 cm, 1889, France, (masterpieces-of-art.com)

Irises were the first subjects Van Gogh painted while at the asylum. After his first attack, he began painting flowers with admiration and joy. Those paintings like the above, showed no signs of his high tension; a bed of purple irises with one white blossom showcase perfect harmony. The balanced complementary Purple-Yellow background shows order especially when juxtaposed with the heightened energy and motion seen in his brushstrokes when creating the Iris blossoms.

Anish Kapoor – Blue to Red on Blood Red:

Anish Kapoor, Blue to Red on Blood Red, Color on concave mirror, 2005, England, (theartstack.com)

Here, the India born British sculptor uses concave and convex mirrors to engulf his viewers into the work. Kapoor’s work invites viewers to look into their inner imaginations, which ironically is what the colour Ultra Violet is all about!

Georgia O’Keeffe – Purple Leaves:

Georgia O’Keeffe, Purple Leaves, Oil on canvas, 9x12x3/8 inches, 1922, USA, (www.daytonartinstitute.com)

Georgia is known for painting still life, and was part of the Precisionism movement. She painted subjects like flowers, shells, bones, leaves, trees and other natural forms. In the above artwork, the artist painted these subjects in her own unique form of abstraction; she isolated the leaves from their natural setting, taking them out and simplifying their forms thus magnifying the entire canvas! O’Keeffe highlights the leaves’ abstraction with the use of color and lines.

Claude Monet – Houses of Parliament (Sunlight effect):

Claude Monet, Houses of Parliament (Sunlight effect), Oil on canvas, 81.3×92.1cm, 1903, USA, (www.artble.com)

In true Monet fashion, the artist painted the Palace of Westminster 19 times, studying the effect of the time of day and season on his colour palette choice. In this 1903 painting, Monet captures the houses in winter as they emerge from the fog in a massive silhouette amid the late afternoon gloom. You can also see peaks of pale sunshine rays breakthrough and shimmer on the water; brushstrokes of color and effects.

Coming soon on artmejournal: 

Pantone Color of the Year 2019: Living Coral in Art History

All images courtesy indicated in captions.


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Haya Abdul Hadi

I graduated from American University in Beirut with a degree in Sociology and Psychology. I am an aspiring and ambitious writer with a love for reading, traveling, and pandas. I believe in having a dream, and a passion and just going for it without question and hesitation. So just go for it, or as Nike says “Just do it!” Always dream big, work hard and be happy.

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