Chevreul Rules!

by Kathleen Huebener in Art Inspires Art


Artists, if you are one who fully likes knowing your colors and how they interact with each other, you would appreciate Michel – Eugene Chevreul and his findings. His book The Principles of Harmony and Contrast of Colors provides us with many important principles of colors.
Here are just five of his Color Principles.
The Triad (yellow, red, blue) is exciting visual dynamic
– if very little color mixing.
Principle 2
Perceived color of an object can be altered by 2 factors:
1) The color of the light that illuminates an object

2) Reflected color of objects near-by.  

 Principle 3 : Principle of Simultaneous Contrast

When any 2 objects or colors are placed side by side, eye and brain work together to MAXIMIZE the contrast between them. Thus Brown A looks darker than Brown B. Yellow X looks brighter than Yellow Y; although both the yellows and browns are identical.
Principle of Simultaneous Contrast   
A personal story of slacks and the Principle of Simultaneous Contrast:

I became more aware of the importance of the Principle of Simultaneous Contrast in every day life, when my son and I were in a department store to buy him some slacks. In the men’s dept, on the wall were hanging racks of slacks with the same design but different colors.
First rack was wheat gold slacks; the second also wheat gold. The third rack was dark olive green; and then a fourth rack of black.  My son became disturbed. “Oh look at that! They can’t even get the same wheat gold color out of the same number lot! Isn’t quality going downhill these days!”

I had been studying Chevreul’s work, so the words popped out of my mouth: “The wheat golds are the same color. It’s Chevreul’s Contrast and Harmony of Colors.” To his chagrin, I proceeded to tell him about Chevreul’s Principle of Simultaneous Contrast; thus the first rack of wheat gold appears darker than rack two. Whereas rack two of wheat gold appeared lighter when placed near the dark olive green rack. What do you think he did next? Yes, he exchanged the two front wheat gold slacks to prove me wrong. 

Result? What do you think happened? Yes, Chevreul’s Principle of Simultaneous Contrast was correct! The slacks were the same color, but the colors appeared differently depending on where they were placed. My son couldn’t believe it! Give Mother one point for intelligence.

One more note to take into consideration when using this principle: Robert Delaunay described this retinal action set off by vivid colors. It is the juxtaposition, or push-pull effect, at another level that creates a sense of mobility. In the photo above, the brown pushes back. The warm/light colors come forward and the darks/cool colors recede.

 Principle 4: Principle of Successive Contrast

Due to contrast level or great difference in values of each of the colors (yellow and blue), the white square Y appears to be brighter in the blue than the white square X in the yellow.

 Principles of Successive Contrast-4 and Complementary Contrast-5

       Principle 5: Principle of Complementary Contrast

Complementaries or colors opposite on the color wheel, when placed around or touching together, the colors appear more brilliant. Another word for it is “Color Relationships” or how the colors relate to each other. This example is yellow-green and red violet. 

Side by side, the yellow-green is stronger because it is next to its complement and seems to have a “pop out” effect.

Yes, all these principles play an important part in creating dynamic vibrant art.
This is just another fine example of why it is important
that we study the old masters and their work.
Chevreul’s Rules rule!