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Towards the end of his tenure as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy, Turner produced two diagrams dealing with aspects of colour theory (see also Tate D17150; Turner Bequest CXCV 179). John Gage provisionally dates the diagrams and corresponding lecture text to 1827, when Turner would have heard Thomas Phillips’s Academy lectures on colour, but also suggests that he assembled the relevant information earlier, possibly in 1825.1 Turner based his diagrams on a colour wheel from Moses Harris’s manual, Natural System of Colours (1811, p.5). Gage and Martin Kemp discuss how Turner rethought and reconfigured Harris’s wheel to explore the differences between ‘aerial’ or light colours, as in the spectrum (in the present Colour Circle No.1) and ‘material’ colours, as in pigments (in Colour Circle No.2, see Tate D17150). Gage explains how this diagram shows aerial colours changing according to the times of day, with light at the top giving way to dark at the bottom: ‘As primaries the colours are able to show light and darkness by themselves; in compounds the combinations of greys, browns and neutrals is infinite, in the progression towards black.’2
Currently laid down.
Supported by The Samuel H. Kress Foundation
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