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Redon's White Vase with Flowers through colour

Colour is all around us as we go about our daily lives. It influences our decisions, our moods and even our productivity levels at work or school. In the arts, colour gives the canvas character and shapes the audience’s perception of the subject and landscape in a painting. Culture, personal life experience and other factors affect what a colour means to a person. Therefore, the same colour can mean something to one person and something else to another. Context can also shape how colours come across to viewers.


Odilon Redon, White Vase with Flowers
Odilon Redon, White Vase with Flowers

Redon’s White Vase with Flowers, 1916, is filled with different colours that work together to create the painting’s layered impression on the viewer. The “warm” colours, which are yellow, red and orange, evoke warm and high-intensity emotions. The yellow flowers, a colour associated with positivity and joy, are near the centre of the painting, where the viewer’s eyes first land. Below them, the bright red flowers add passion to the piece, as red evokes deep emotions such as love, and captivates the viewer. In the background, the orange half is more saturated than the pink, purple and grey half, commanding more attention and permeating the painting with an energetic atmosphere.


Meanwhile, the pink and lavender purple in the other half contributes a dreamy, romantic feeling to the painting, though the grey subdues it with hints of melancholy. Further from the centre of the canvas, the dark green foliage and blue and purple flowers, all part of the “cool” colour categorization, help ground the painting with a reflective calmness. Green and blue are tied to the tranquility of the natural world, with blue evoking the reflective surface of the water. 


The vase itself, which is predominantly white, provides simplicity to prevent the eyes from getting overwhelmed by the clustered flowers. The white vase, as well as the white flowers, also further bring out the qualities of the other colours. The well-defined brushstrokes of the vase, compared to the flowers with less definitive lines, also show how the white vase holds up the other colours, perhaps ensuring no colour overpowers the others in the painting.


By considering each colour’s contribution to a painting of flowers, the viewer can better understand and appreciate it. Emotions are a large part of art and through the use of colour. They breathe life into brushstrokes and resonate with both art connoisseurs and casual audiences alike.


By Elisa S.

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