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1 .<-NARRATOR:->Listen to part of a lecture in a studio art class.
1 .<-MALE PROFESSOR:->OK... As-as you probably know, primary colors are, theoretically speaking, the basic colors from which all other colors can be made.
2 .But as you'll find out when you start working on your painting projects, the three primary colors-red, blue, yellow-don't always make the best secondary colors.
3 .Combining red and blue, you'll probably never get a fantastic violet.
4 .To get a nice violet, you'll have to add white.
5 .Combining yellow and blue, you'll almost never get a satisfactory green.
6 .You're better off using a pure green pigment...
7 .The idea of "primary colors"-and specifically the idea of red, yellow, and blue being the primary colors-didn't exist until about 200 years ago.
8 .Until then, the dominant theory about color was one that had been proposed by Isaac Newton.
1 .Newton gave a scientific and objective explanation of colors.
2 .He used a prism to break white light down into the various colors of the spectrum, and he theorized-rightly so-that different colors are essentially different wavelengths of light.
3 .But he made no mention of "primary" colors.
4 .That idea came from- or was at least published by-a man named Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
1 .Goethe was a well-known author; he wrote many famous novels, plays, poems... So why did he start thinking about colors?
2 .Well, Goethe was part of the Romantic movement in Western literature... and he was a Romantic through-and-through, meaning that he explained objects and phenomena in terms of the spiritual, emotional impact they had, as opposed to explaining them in terms of their scientific nature; he rejected an objective understanding of color in favor of a more subjective understanding.
3 .He believed that when we see color, it stimulates our emotions.
4 .And different colors appeal to or inspire different emotions in different people.
1 .<-FEMALE STUDENT:->That sounds like psychology.
1 .<-MALE PROFESSOR:->Well, color theory is used in psychology too; some psychologists do use their field's version of color theory to diagnose and treat patients...
2 .Um, anyway, Goethe conducted a number of experiments trying to figure out which colors corresponded to which emotions...
3 .And, in terms of that goal, he wasn't very successful.
4 .But... his experiments actually did show a lot about the relationships between colors themselves, about how colors change when placed next to other colors, about how they interact with one another.
5 .Scientists studying optics and chromatics today still marvel at his findings...
6 .But Goethe wasn't really able to establish a clear connection between colors and emotions.
1 .Then, in 1806, he received a letter from a relatively unknown German artist, a painter named Philipp Otto Runge.
2 .In the letter, Runge outlined his own color theory, specifically the connections he made between colors and emotions.
3 .And his ideas about what colors symbolized, a-about the emotions that different colors inspired were based on the colors red, yellow, and blue.
4 .Runge's choice of red, yellow, and blue had nothing to do with what we know from modern-day chromatics-it had to do with Runge's complex system of symbolism, his experience of nature, particularly with his experience of the quality of light at various times of the day- morning, noon, and night.
5 .So each color had a specific symbolic value.
6 .Well, four years later, Goethe published a book entitled Color Lesson.
7 .In Color Lesson, Goethe [lightly sarcastic] coincidentally cites the same colors as primary colors.
8 .At this point, Goethe was already a well-known author, so he was easily able to popularize this idea of primary colors, and specifically the idea of red, yellow, and blue as the primary colors.
1 .<-FEMALE STUDENT:->But he didn't mention Runge?
1 .<-MALE PROFESSOR:->Well, he did put Runge's letter in the book, at the end. But he added a disclaimer, implying that Runge's letter didn't influence his work.
2 .[Sarcastic] Apparently, what Goethe was saying was that they just happened to come up with the same theory at the same time.