Tuesday, 4 December 2012


We've recently focused our attention on objects related to the topic of 'colour'. We've grouped these together and created a new online 'Theme', which you can look at here.

Through this new colour theme we hope to showcase our collection to those working in what is a very broad and interdisciplinary research field. Organisations like the UK Colour Group help to bring together researchers studying colour across a range of disciplines. It is a very broad subject, of interest in equal measure to chemists and engineers as to fine artists and fashion designers.

MoDA has had assistance identifying objects in our collection which could be of use to researchers from  Gwen Fereday,  lecturer in Fashion and Textiles at Middlesex University.  Gwen is currently researching the phenomenon of Grapheme-colour synesthesia.

One of the books in our collection she discovered is The Laws of Contrast of Colour from 1868 by the French chemist Michael Eugène Chevreul (Incidentally as well as as introducing the idea of a systematic approach to seeing colour, Chevreul also discovered the fatty acid that led to the invention of margarine). If Chevreul is of interest to you, I'd recommend checking out this re-enactment of an interview between Chevreul and the great photographer Felix Nadar in 1886 where they discuss photography, colour theory, balloons and how to live to 100.

ME Chevreul, The Law of Contrast of Colour, translated by John Spanton, London: George Routledge & Sons, 1868. Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (BADDA2289)

Perhaps the most obvious use of MoDA's collection for those researching colour, is investigations around the developments of colour choice, style and taste in home decoration. From turn-of the-century best-selling author Mrs JE  Panton (an authoritative voice on home-making) right through to DIY magazine columnists of the 1960s, MoDA's collection contains a wealth of opinion on colour choice. Often these opinions tended to insinuate that decisions about tones and shades for the home also communicated things about the personality or temperament of it's occupants.

In Nooks and Corners, the companion book to Kitchen to Garrett, Panton advises on the right colour scheme for halls, recommending her personal favourite 'yellow' and condemning the use of terra-cotta or real green.
I cannot and never do recommend either a terra-cotta or real green wall; the latter is such a nondescript and uncertain colour that the use of it in the entrance appear to me to strike the keynote to the character of the inhabitants, who are thus pronounced uncertain in their ideas, and not particularly satisfactory...'
The 1951 publication Designs for Living: Colour in Home Decoration illustrates to the reader through a series of colour photographs, 'appropriate application of colour and pattern', whilst also claiming to assist with planning a colour scheme to suit ones' personality. Below is an example of a colour scheme for a 'smartly conservative' personality.

An example interior for the 'smartly conservative', from Effa Brown, Designs for Living; Colour in Home Decoration, Chicargo: Wilcox and Follett Co., 1951, page 11, Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture (BADDA938)
A 1950s paint chart from the Ripolin collection, Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture(BADDA4024)

We hope that our new thematic group is a helpful 'way in' for those wanting to make use of MoDA's collection to study colour. We would be very interested to hear from anyone who might have other creative ideas about to use our collection to explore this theme.

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