How does colour affect the mood of the art work

My course work is on the effect of colour, and how this affects the mood of the artist’s work. The artists I have looked at are mostly expressionist and impressionist artists. They are:

1. Claude Monet – light effects, and colour

2. Jackson Pollok – later works on drip painting, and use of a limited colour pallet

3. Wassily Kandinsky – change of paintings over time

I chose these artists because I find their use of bright and bold colours fascinating, and find the techniques in which they paint very interesting as well as extravagant, as they all have their own unique quality. I also like the way the painting has been applied to the canvas which is expressive and could also be therapeutic, as it allows your body to flow, taking you into a rhythm.

Monte is an impressionist artist who uses a limited pallet, to create mostly landscape and seascape sceneries. His use of a limited pallet would help him to achieve different tones in the paint he was using, which allowed him to focus on the light and dark aspects of the painting. Over the years the pallet he used changed from blues and greens to reds and browns, and also the paintings of sceneries became more blurred, due to his eye sight becoming worse and worse over time. He focuses mostly on how light touches objects, and how this gives a more realistic affect in the painting. When creating shadows he does not use black, but he blends a series of colours (browns created using reds and blues) to create a darker colour close to black.

Jackson Pollock is an artist who applies paint to canvas in an expressive way, called ‘’action painting’’. He has different ways of applying paint which have different feelings behind brush stroke and flick, for example a fast flick could represent anxiousness. He tends to use black a lot in his paintings, maybe showing darkness, despair and loneliness. The colours he generally uses are very earth, nothing too bright. Kandinsky has a more structural approach to his paintings, and is also an expressionist artist, although he got his early inspiration from Monet who is an Impressionist artist. He uses a variety of bold colours and shapes in his paintings, which take a lot of thought into structuring the initial idea. He focuses on the geometrical side of art, which include use of shapes which are structured in a certain way.

Through researching these artists, I would like to discover why their artwork uses such limited but bold colours, and how they implement it into their work mentally and physically. This will allow me to develop my skills into techniques of blending and applying the different colours that work well together, in order to create an Impressionist or Expressionist piece of art work.

I would like to find out why and how exactly artists like Kandinsky and Pollock structure their designs and choice of colour, to create deep feeling and thought within their paintings. There are different uses of different colours, and these are used to create a mood in the painting, for example light colours represent good things like purity and kindness, whereas dark colours are more remorse filled and represent loneliness. A colour like red can be seen in different ways, for example it could mean love and passion, or it could represent anger and blood, which are two extremes.

Chapter 1 – Claude Monet

Claude Monet was born in Paris, France and became the founder of French Impressionist movement. He was brought up in Le Havre, where he studied caricaturist. But then was inspired by the artist Eugene Boudin, which made him change his style of painting from caricaturist to more landscape paintings. Eugene Boudin inspired Monet to paint by showing him Normandy, when seeing the beautiful lands of Normandy he went on to create his first Immersionist painting, and do studies of how light falls upon haystacks.

Impressionist art is a style of painting where the artist takes a quick glimpse of an image of an object or place, and would paint it exactly how they saw it in that glimpse. Theses impressionist artists often use a lot of bright colours in their paintings making them vibrant. Most of the paintings are of the outdoors, and the artists try to capture the light of the objects in their paintings.

Claude Monet was known for his outdoor landscapes and for painting series of the same image during different times of day and at different times of year. Some of his most well known series are the haystacks and the Japanese bridge.

The haystacks

Fig 1. Fig 2. Fig 3.

The haystacks are a series of immersionist paintings done by Monet from 1888 through to 1891 in Normandy. There are a total 25 canvases of the haystacks in total. Monet started painting them in late summer and followed through to spring.

In figure 1 we can see that it has been painted at the time of sunset, as there is a orange glow in the air, which is in the top half of the painting, and we can clearly see the horizon line, and what maybe a cliff or forest in the background, which has a slightly darker tint to it than the foreground. The darker shadowed areas have not been painted with black, but have been replaced with other colours mixed together to create something close to black, many Impressionist artists use this technique. There’s a lot of variation of colours and different types of brush strokes used going from the hay stack to the sky in the painting. The strokes used for the hay stacks would have been short, to create the look of the hay. The glow around the tip of the haystack allows us to focus our eyes directly onto its point, which is overpowering the whole painting.

Figure 2 by Monet have the same shaped haystacks although the season has completely changed to a wintery scene with snowfall and fog in the air. This one has also been painted at the time of sunset, giving the same orange glow in the air; only this one has a deeper and darker orange colour to it. We can see how change of colours has been made to make this snowy and cold effect by the use of more use of blues and whites as well as the same original colours. This cooler pallet make the painting feel more clam, but unsure; partially because of the shadows and darker areas of the painting.

Figure 3 is a painting done during sunlight hours, and we can clearly see the sunlight hits the hay stacks from the west. The vibrant colours used to create a sense of light. The shadows also show that there is light coming from the west making the east dark and in shadow. These more vibrant colours blend well in the landscape and give a fresh look, helping you to imagine the atmosphere, and a slight breeze going through the air. We can see the colours to be more separated, unlike the others which are mostly in one shade of the same colour. We can now tell better that there is greenery coming through from behind the haystacks that in his previous paintings which were slightly gloomier, which may have been because they were done at the time of sun set unlike this one, done during the day time.

Monet’s art work inspired many, including the great Wassily Kandinsky who found his abstract impressionism from look at a painting of the haystacks, and the geometric designs he saw in the haystacks. Monet has influenced me to do some of my own paintings; from landscapes I have seen, using different colours to focus on the different areas of light that touch the object. His will allow me to develop my skill and confidence in using colour, and receiving a deeper understanding of why it has been painted this way.

The paintings do create a sense of mood within the painting, not just because of the lighting, but also because of the colours used. This combination of lights and darks create different moods like in the figure 1 the atmosphere was serene and lazy, where as figure 2 had a completely different approach as it was cool but mysterious. The colours in these painting defiantly affect the way we thing and feel about a painting.

Chapter 2 – Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock was born and raised in America, and became a major figure in the abstract impressionist movement. Pollock had a unique style of painting called drip painting. He struggled to deal with problems, and maybe as a result of this he painted. Painting and art is therapy for allot of people, it helps you get away from the stresses of life. Pollock suffered from alcoholism for the majority of this life, his personality was volatile, and as a result of this he died very young at the age of 44.

Pollock earlier works from the 1940 were influenced mainly by Pablo Picasso, as his early paintings were much brighter and vibrant because of the use of colour, that the ones done in his later life, where he was introduced to drip painting, which was done using liquid paint in 1936, at a experimental workshop in new York, by an artist named David Alfaro Siqueiros.

Many people say that Pollock’s work should not be as highly regarded as it is, because it’s just paint being thrown onto a canvas using a stick. But if you look closely into the canvas you can see that under all the paint there are words, letters, numbers, and sometimes even his name written in capitals. So behind all these layers of paint there is a deep understanding that people are trying to achieve.

Autumn Rhythm: Number 30 (1950)

Fig 4.

Autumn rhythm like other paintings by Pollock is started with lines fob black diluted paint, which soak right through the canvas. Then over this he applied more skeins of paint in different colour, but always keeping the colour limited. When painting my artist use different brush strokes to achieve different looks, but Pollock focuses more on the drips, and types of lines he uses. They could be short or long, thick or thin, or even light or dark. To create each line he used a variety of tools going from the normal paint brush to using sticks and knives.

Autumn rhythm is an early example of abstract impressionism by Pollock. In this he seems very irrational in his ideas and new style of abstract painting. The drip technique he uses was used to create autumn rhythm. Behind all the paint drips and splashes in this piece he had drawn human forms in the main sections of the canvas and their presence suggests that there is some meaning behind the painting. The painting altogether has no exact focal point, but it like a network made from unordered drips and lines, creating chaos and exhaustion. But the lines don’t reach right to the edge of the canvas, which creates a frame for it.

Pollock uses very earthy colours, like blacks, browns, whites, and blues. This makes the painting seem more serine, although chaotic. The black lines create a sense of direction and movement as they stand out from the page, which makes you feel excited.

The deep (fig 5) is another famous oil painting by Jackson Pollock. By the 1950s Pollock stopped using colour all together and decided to only use the colour back in his work. This was at a stage where alcoholism was taking over his life, and using only black may have been a result of this. The deep gives you a sense of mystery. You feel as though you would get lost within the painting, much like a abyss. The layered which brush strokes make you feel as though they are dragging you deep into the painting, into the unknown. This painting was very unlike his previous styles of drip painting, which give us the vibe that he may have wanted to do something different or to break away.

Fig 5.

Although Pollock was an abstract artist, his style of abstract painting was different to abstract artists like Wassily Kandinsky, because of the way he painted. There some similarities in the fact that Kandinsky used lots of lines and shapes in his abstract art, and Pollock also used lines in different ways as well, but as you look at the images as a whole they are completely different. Kandinsky art was more refined and used more vibrant colours than Pollock’s.

Pollock did not use many vibrant colours in his art work, they were more earthy colours, and some were just black and white. But I liked this affect, and it makes ir feel unknown like you want to know more about it. His paintings are a mystery; we have to look deep into them to find what’s really trying to be told.

It has influenced me to test out the style of drip painting myself, and I found it very enjoyable and therapeutic, much like how Pollock may have felt himself. However I have not yet tried it on a larger scale as Pollock did, so I am looking forward to trying that out, and experimenting with not only the colours he used but to see what other colours work well.

Chapter 3 – Wassily Kandinsky

Wassily Kandinsky was an abstract painter, who was born in Moscow and grew up in Odessa. As well as being a good artist he learned how to play the piano and cello. His parent wanted him to grow up to be a lawyer which he did, but then at the age of 30, left this successful career to devote himself entirely to art. He made this decision, because of a French impressionist exhibiting shown in Moscow. And he was fascinated and inspired by Monet’s paintings of the haystacks, and so he devoted himself to these works.

Kandinsky believed deeply in abstract art and was one of the first to create non figurative art. He was very much in support of non objective art, and believed that total abstraction allowed you to spiritually express yourself properly. His later more abstract paintings of 1913 are considered to be one of the first totally abstract compositions in art. And because of Kandinsky the abstract impressionist movement dominated American painting.

Kandinsky liked to explore colours and sounds to enable him to visualize properties in abstract composition. He was influence by the properties of colour and sound, which lead him in his abstract compositions. In his paintings Kandinsky tries to show human emotions through his work using symbols and visual sensations, and tried to create object free paintings. In his later woks he looked more at composition of geometrical forms, as we can see through the shapes and lines he used in this work.

Kandinsky did a series of paintings called the compositions, these compositions were major statements of his life and artistic ideas. The paintings were done on large scale to show the representation of increasingly abstract art.

Fig 6.

Composition IV (fig 6) was painted in 1911, which was slightly before he went completely abstract. There is still the use of lines, but they are not completely geometrical. Immediately when you see this painting your eye focuses on the blue area in the middle of the painting because the blue is vibrant and have been out lined with the black, and it’s one of the major colours in the painting. The two thick black lines in the centre of the painting divide the painting in two. The left uses more jagged lines and is more busy where as the right had side seems more calmer and uses more brighter and cheerful colours. The colours, shapes and forms have a strong impact on the viewer. If you look closely enough you can figure out that the painting is not just of colours and line, but there are things happening in it, like the two lances held by red hated Cossacks.

Composition VIII (fig 7) is probably one of the more famous of Kandinsky’s work. It was painted in 1923, which was some time after his first composition. When you see this painting you immodestly look to the left of the painting where the circle is as it’s the darkest area in the painting and its very geometrical compared to his earlier paintings. His work her seems allot more structured, but there is defiantly less use of vibrant colours then before. The circle my represent sustainability as its able to start over and over again. Kandinsky has started to experiment with geometrical forms. In the centre of the painting there is a large triangle, which could represent, he himself being where he wants to, which is at the peak of his career, it could also represent his life from him starting very low down to being the highest in his field. To me the painting seems very busy, like there’s a lot going on in it, but it seems to have less going on that in his previous paintings.

Fig 7.

Kandinsky is very different to other artists. His abstract work has a deeper meaning which all people may not understand just by looking at it. We have to look deeper within the painting to understand what Kandinsky is really saying. His first pieces of art were much like Monet as he was inspired by Monet but gradually through his career he developed his own style to work on, which is remembered for its unique style.

The colour Kandinsky uses does have an influence on the viewer’s mood. The more vibrant colours he used, it had a more atmospheric approach like you knew where you were. In his later work the colours started to die out slightly, ad he took on a geometrical approach. This did involve colours, which made some areas of the painting stand out, which was a sign by Kandinsky that that area was the centre of the painting.

I an going to do a investigation to see how I can take natural forms in nature and change them in to geometrical forms using shapes and lines and colours. And I will show how I made the transformation from and ordinary view of a landscape to a geometric approach.


I have discovered that all artist use colours in different ways, sometimes to express different feelings and other times to show the true reality of the world. The colours used do affect the mood of the view and changes their reaction to the painting. I have discovered that painting that use more vibrant colours have a generally positive feel to them. But in darker one you feel a sense of mystery within the painting.

Jackson Pollock’s work defiantly answered the question as you can tell through the way he expresses himself throughout the art work, and the colours he uses, show his feelings and thoughts. We know that he was an alcoholic which may be the reason behind the dark and earthy colours he uses in his paintings. Monet’s work also shows hoe colour is used in the context of light, showing how lighter and darker colours can be used to create mood in the painting. Kandinsky’s work varied through his time period from going from more vast and vibrant to more geometrical and linier.

Overall the colour of works do generally affect the mood of whoever sees the painting, but we cannot determine this for all people as different people have different personalities and view which may change their perception of the painting.

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