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Johannes Itten the color theorist Biography Johannes Itten, the color theorist, was born on November 11, 1888 in Switzerland in a place called Sudden-Linden. He took four years to train as an elementary school teacher from the year 1904 to 1908. At the beginning of his teaching career, Johannes Itten used the kindergarten concept which was developed by Friedrich Frobel as his major teaching methodologies in 1908 (Osborne 271). The kindergarten concept was based on recognizing the diverse abilities and uniqueness of each individual design student. Having enrolled at Geneva for Ecole des beauxarts in 1909, Johannes Itten was not pleased with the mode of teaching in the school and therefore decided to return to Bern in Switzerland. Johannes Itten was careful in his approach to teaching Arts and Design which largely adopted the concepts of Schneider (a popular theorist in teaching methodologies) who believed in not correcting the creative works of his students to prevent breaking their creative spirit. Nonetheless, Johannes opted to correct the class as a whole to prevent the persistence of the art and design mistakes while building the creativity of his students. Despite him having left Geneva due to what he termed as unimpressive teaching methodology, he, however, returned there in 1912 where he studied as an abstract painter under the supervision of Eugene Gilliard who applied basic shapes such as lines and circles to establish creation of designs as well as application of gymnastics to prepare the expectations of his students in an Arts and Design class. Between 1919 and 1922 Johannes Itten taught at the Bauhaus where he came up with a creative preliminary course which was aimed at equipping students with fundamentals of material characteristics, color, and composition. He was able to develop seven theories of color contrasts as well as developing adequate exercises for his teaching. The seven color contrast theories entailed; contrast by value, contrast by hue, contrast by complements, contrast by temperature, contrast by saturation, simultaneous contrast as well as a contrast by extension. In the year 1920, besides extending his invitation to Georg Muche and Paul Klee (who taught painting at Group’s Art School in Switzerland) to join Bauhaus, he as well published a book which he titled ‘The Art of Color’ which outlined the concepts of painting. With the aide of Gunta Stolzl who was a Bauhaus weaver, Johannes Itten was able to establish a weaving workshop near Zurich which largely contributed to his career advancement in Arts and Design. Johannes Itten was a strict follower of the American fire cultic believes Mazdazna which originated from Zoroastrianism and which advocated for the restoration of the earth to the point where people could converse and cooperate with God. In 1923 Johannes Itten resigned from Bauhaus and was replaced by Moholy-Nagy who was a Hungarian painter and photographer after a move by students to push for mass production of artistic works. This was contrary to his belief of individual artistic expression. Between 1926 and 1934 Johannes Itten directed a small school of architecture in Berlin, Germany. From 1949-1956 Johannes Itten worked as the director of Textilfachscule in Zurich and the year 1955 he worked as a freelance painter and also established color courses at HfG Ulm. Johannes Itten died in Zurich on March 25, 1967 at an age of 78 years. Jo Johannes Itten paintings at Zurich Example There are numerous examples of Johannes Itten creative works among them being the Tower of Fire of 1920, The Encounter of 1916, study of Contrasts of 1920 and among others. The Encounter was painted by Itten before his arrival at Bauhaus. The Encounter is a culmination of the fundamental principles that guided his philosophy and teachings. The art is a reflection of the application of geometric shapes and dominant repeated spiral circles and rectangles. The art contains the details of his color exploration spectrum. Most importantly the art has both symbolic and personal meaning. In reflection to the suicide of his girlfriend, the art has a formation of serial paintings which have similar palette and composition which was completed between years 1915 and 1916. The art which has been referred to as Meeting is centered on two formations of intertwining spirals which brings out its universal significance of theosophical archetype of natural formations of geometry as well as signifying transcendence which is beyond the physical and concrete world. Another viewpoint of this art is the contrast dynamism of color developed from a detailed range of hues. Bright colors ranging from yellow to blue which are in gradations have been featured in part with horizontal stripping at the lower right color. Application The art is an illustration of Johannes Itten emphasis on primary colors and shapes drawn from Kandinsky’s influence which had a great influence on students and instructors of Bauhaus. Influence Itten was largely influenced by artistic work by his initial and long engagement in creative studies which were to a large extent inspired by people like Friedrich Frobel through his kindergarten concept which Itten highly valued. Most importantly, it's long career growth in arts and design added to his passion and advanced creativity in creative works which was a great influence to his choice in advancing in the field of color design. How Itten applied his theories Johannes Itten did not imagine a world without colors, according to him color is life and the world appears to be dead in absence of colors. As such, Johannes Itten used different color theories to reflect emotions. In essence, different colors reflect different emotions. Tinted colors reflect better and brighter aspects of life while shades are a reflection of dark moments in life as well as negative forces. To express how people are affected by colors both psychologically and physically and how they react to each other, Johannes assigned ‘warm and cool’ as distinct color qualities. Itten applied colors to reflect seasons. For instance, spring was defined by luminous colors such as yellow-green lilac and pink to reflect youthful radiant and light season while summer was defined by colors such as indigo, red, and royal blue to reflect an active, warm and saturated season (Godwin, Joscelyn 447). Johannes Itten theories Itten developed seven color theories which included contrast of light and dark, contrast of hue, contrast of saturation, simultaneous contrast, contrast of extension, and contrast of warm and cool. According to Itten, the contrast of light and dark are created through juxtaposition of the value of light and dark and the contrast of warm and cool are created when dark and light color values are simultaneously used. Itten regarded complementary colors as a combination of colors that result to neutral grey (Xiaoyan, et al 18). On the other hand, simultaneous contrast is as a result of placing opposing colors next to each other thus developing an illusion of shadows or vibrations. The meaning of simultaneous is the generation of contrast because of a color near another color. For instance, there will be generation of a blue hue inside the gray color if we have red on gray. The contrast of proportion refers to two or more color areas such as small and large where an increased significance of color is expressed when a small brighter spot contrasts a large area of darkness. Conclusion In conclusion Johannes Itten significantly contributed to the definition and identification of strategies for successful combination of colors where through his research he was able to devise seven color contrasts which are largely applied in Arts and design today. It is important to note that the interior design industry which has become a trend with most businesses such as restaurants has largely benefitted from Itten’s concepts of color and lighting where the industry is using this concepts to illuminate their premises to appeal to the market. Works cited Godwin, Joscelyn. "Esoteric Theories of Color." Lux in Tenebris: The Visual and the Symbolic in Western Esotericism(2016): 447. Osborne, R. "Teaching colour in art and design." Colour Design (Second Edition). 2017. 271284. Zhang, Xiaoyan, et al. "The Colour Attributes of Paintings." Computational Approaches in the Transfer of Aesthetic Values from Paintings to Photographs. Springer, Singapore, 2018. 9-32.
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