The Expressionist Johannes Itten taught a color theory at Bauhaus that is still used to introduce art students to color today. He developed a 12-color wheel based on three primary, three secondary and six tertiary colors: red, yellow, blue; green, orange, violet; and tertiary — red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, red-violet. Itten assigned specific emotions to colors, and labeled hues either “warm” or “cool.” He worked to create startling color contrasts, using saturation, light and dark values, complements — opposites on the color wheel — and juxtaposed warm and cool colors. Itten showed students how placing opposite colors next to each other caused viewers to see vibration or shadows. He theorized that warm colors seem to move forward because they are comforting and attractive to observers, and cool colors recede because they inspire feelings of melancholy or sadness.(1)
The following colors evoke certain meanings in this culture. These subconscious perceptions, intuitive thought and positive knowledge should always function together. They bear some general truth, but may vary in different societies. They are related to the psychological realm, mental and emotional experience of the viewer.
1. Red signifies primitive & fiery strength, inner warmth, active, vivacity, passionate, dynamic force, mars, revolution. It can be widely varied between cold and warm.
2. Orange express radiant activity, communication, active energy, fire burning, solar luminosity, self-respect and generosity. It could be lightened to beige for a quiet and intimate interior space.
3. Yellow is most luminous & bright color with the sense of radiant, weightless & pure vibration. It symbolizes understanding, knowledge and intelligence. It is most aggressive and luminous on black. Golden yellow represents the highest sublimation of matter, but greenish yellow is a sickly color to a lot of people.
4. Green symbolizes growth, hope, tranquility, sympathy & compassion. It is the fusion & interpenetration of knowledge and faith. Yellow-greens are joyful, young and sunny; while blue-green are cold, pensive and vigorous.
5. Blue express relaxation, passive, submissive faith, stability, grief & associated with nervous system. It symbolizes inner spiritual life, immortality and transcendental. Darker shades – infinity; lighter tints – dreamlike quality.
6. Violet is a mysterious, meditative, emotional, piety color and the color of dignity. Its tints symbolize the brighter aspects of life, whereas shades represent the dark, negative forces and terrors.
7. Gray is a neutral and the color of inertia. It symbolizes indecision, monotony and depression in dark tones.(2)