Pink Week: Painter's Palette

Sir Joshua Reynolds, Lady in Pink, 1781
Being able to spend hours immersed in color is one of the most wonderful aspects of my career as an art historian.  Though I appreciate the compositional qualities of black and white photography and the technical aspects of a marble sculpture, I've always been most attracted to the array of shades in an oil on canvas. 

When I visit a museum, sometimes I must remind myself to consider the content and context of the image because it is so easy for me to become completely absorbed in the color palette.  Color draws me into an artwork and sustains my interest.  Color, on a primal and optical level, attracts me to certain images and keeps me within their orbit.

Often when I tell an acquaintance that I make my living studying and teaching the history of art, he or she asks, "who's your favorite artist?"  For me, this is an impossible choice and changes daily.  

When I'm teaching New Kingdom Egypt, I become fascinated with gold and lapis lazuli mummy masks.  The next week, in another class, I may be discussing the Protestant Baroque in the Netherlands and I simply cannot get enough of Vermeer.  The only commonality I can find in the artists and art that I adore most is color.  All of the artists whom I treasure are masterful colorists.

Today, I wanted to look at a few paintings that employ pink gloriously.  From the thoughtful portraitist to the rule-bending modernist, pink can offer a viewer a range of emotions.  

Degas's pink, the quintessence of "ballerinaness," prepare us for pirouettes and plies. Conversely, Signac provides us the palest pink of sunset on a warm summer afternoon. Chagall employs pink as the hue of love and Sargent presents his lady in the most elegant fuchsia velvet haute couture.  By 1945, de Kooning produces a hard-edged pink with a sullied yellow companion, perhaps offering us a post-war sentiment. And, lastly, O'Keeffe early in her career, when she was still painting flowers and abstractions before heading West to New Mexico, captures subtly changing shades of pink on the soft inside of a tulip.
Edgar Degas, Pink Ballerinas, 1885
Paul Signac, Pink Clouds, 1916

Marc Chagall, Pink Lovers, 1916
John Singer Sargent, Mrs. Hugh Hammersley, 1892
Willem de Kooning, Pink Angels, 1945
Georgia O'Keeffe, Pink Tulip, 1926


  1. Beautiful writing, Pink Frenchie! Never thought of grouping painters by colors and hues but then why not? My favorite "pink" painter is Gauguin -- love the tropical pinks of his canvases.

  2. I love John Singer Sargent, but I definitely associate him with darker/neutral colors, so the bright pink dress was a very pleasant surprise!


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