Psychology of Colors

Hi everyone! This week I wanted to talk about a painting that has invited me to think about the psychology of color. Sometime last week on Facebook, I was intrigued by a painting that showed up on my feed: Saint Anthony the Abbot in the Wilderness created by Osservanza Master in 1435.

Osservanza Master, Saint Anthony the Abbot in the Wilderness, 1435

Image from MET

When this painting came up on my feed, I loved it! It made me feel calm, and I ended up staring at it for a good ten minutes enjoying the artwork. Today, I came across the same painting, and, again, I felt that calm feeling that I felt earlier in the week.

This constant calm emotion that I feel with this painting made me think of the psychology of color. This painting is dominated by warm colors, through the red and orange; however, it also has cold colors, which is seen in the blue and undertones of green (sometimes used in tempera to build up).

When I did some research on warm colors, these colors can often demonstrate “warmth and comfort.” Red can also create a sense of “urgency,” which would make sense in this painting because of the temptation that is surrounding St. Anthony; however, personally, I do not feel urgency in this painting because of how light the red is. Additionally, the cold colors can create a feeling of “calm and relaxation,” which is definitely what is portrayed in this painting (

Today, we have a vast understanding of the effects of color. Artists artworks’ colors are an extensive part of contemporary art, as well as any other time period’s artworks. And some artists’ artworks are dominated by colors, like Peter Tollens.

I was curious to see if artists before the modern era thought of colors the same way that we do today. I am not sure if artists before modern art understand color on the same psychological level that we understand color today; however, I think that have an understanding of the power that color can have. Artists, whether Pre-historic, Medieval, Renaissance, and so on, used colors strategically in their artworks to emphasize emotions, subject matter, topics, and so much more. This can be seen with Caravaggio, who often used black backgrounds to emphasize the figures and scene in his paintings. Therefore, whether previous artists, before the modern age, had an understanding of art colors the same way that we do today is unknown; however, they did have some understanding of the significance of color, since many artists use color strategically.

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