Turner was one of the first theorists to explore the differences and relationships between ‘aerial’ colours, as in light (see the diagram to the left), and ‘material’ colours, as in pigments. In his lecture he explained how the colours of light mix to produce white, while a mixture of material colours creates black.
This diagram is based on a prismatic circle from a book by Moses Harris entitled Natural Systems of Colour about 1770. It shows how in pigments the three primary colours – yellow, blue and red – mix to make a muddy grey.
Gallery label, July 2004