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Quotations about Color


Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment. ~Claude Monet

[C]olor is an infinite thing... ~F. Schuyler Mathews, "Comparative Colors and their Relation to Flowers," 1894

But men are so serious. Why? Why violence? Why hatred? Why war? If people want to make war, they should make a colour war, and paint each others city up during the night in pinks and greens. ~Yoko Ono

Wherever men are noble, they love bright colour; and wherever they can live healthily, bright colour is given them — in sky, sea, flowers, and living creatures. ~John Ruskin (1819–1900), Proserpina: Studies of Wayside Flowers, While the Air Was Yet Pure Among the Alps, and in the Scotland and England which My Father Knew, “The Flower,” 1874

One pleasant Saturday morning early in spring, those children... asked me what was my most favorite color. I said gray was... But soon... a Mariposa lily bloomed in my vacant lot. It was red. Very red. Suddenly red became my favorite color — until wild roses popped open their sunny yellow petals. All that year into the whiteness of winter, I discovered the colors of Easter eggs, June bugs, firecrackers, Concord grapes, goldenrod — and all were my favorites. ~Harry Behn (1898–1973), "Color," Chrysalis: Concerning Children and Poetry, 1968

...various shades of pink, rose, and salmon... scarlet, crimson, and maroon... yellow, apricot, maize, and lavender.... buff, blush, orange, silvery grey, deep pink, purple, white, heliotrope, terra-cotta... ~T.H. Cook, James Douglas, & J.F. McLeod, Carnations & Pinks, 1911  [colors of flowers —tg]

Purple is the soul-lifter
Red, the flame of passion
Yellow, the light of warmth
Green, vibrant stem of life
Pink, a whisper of beauty
Orange beckons, take a chance
Blue is the sea tide in us all
~Terri Guillemets

Red is passion-lit, orange is flowerageous, yellow is suntastic, pink is lipsensual, green is lifebursting, blue is skyful, purple is berrydancing, gray is cloudrainy. ~Terri Guillemets, "Love colours," 2011

A colour, no doubt, is a trifle in itself, and only has its full value when it is in contrast or harmony with other colours.... each colour has an expression and a character peculiar to itself, and each is enlivened as it approaches its lightest shade by its mixture with white, just as it is saddened and perishes as it approaches its darkest shade by its mixture with black. ~Auguste Alexandre Philippe Charles Blanc (1813–1882), Art in Ornament and Dress / L'Art dans la Parure et dans le Vêtement, "Personal Adornment: Colours and Their Expression," 1875, translated from French

In fact, why do two colors, put one next to the other, sing? ~Pablo Picasso

Flowers and flames. And colour... The last mad throb of red just as it turns green, the ultimate shriek of orange calling upon all the blues of heaven for relief or for support; these Georgia O'Keeffe is able to use. In her canvases each colour almost regains the fun it must have felt, within itself, on forming the first rain‑bow. ~Charles Demuth (1883–1935), letter to Alfred Stieglitz, 1926 December 26th  [So cute! — he referred to her elsewhere as G'Keeffe. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

Among these kinds of beauty the eye takes most delight in colours. ~Joseph Addison, The Spectator, June 23rd 1712 (Nº 412)  [Quoted Addison by Maturin M. Ballou, 1886: "In the recognition of beauty the eye takes the most delight in color." —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

What could be more lovely than a winter night such as this, when the moon shines out of a cloudless sky upon the glittering, fresh-fallen snow? Beauty without colour seems somehow to belong to another world. ~Murasaki Shikibu (c.978–c.1014), The Tale of Genji: A Wreath of Cloud, translated from the Japanese by Arthur Waley, 1927

Nature is your true landscape painter. The mile, not the foot, is the unit measure of her canvases. Upon her palette rest colors, with their infinite variety of shades and tints, found in no moral studio. When the summer panorama is unrolled, count, if you can, the thousand-and-one hues that blend with the ubiquitous green of the picture, or give a name to the dyes that greet the gaze when the autumnal canvas glides into view. ~Sister Mary Blanche (Elizabeth King, b.1852), "A Study in Gray," Idyls and Sketches, 1916

Does there exist a special paradise
Where sunset colors soar when daylight fades...
A super-spectrum of all hues and shades?...
Is there a heaven made for amethyst,
For rose and blue that frost drains from fall flowers,
Where rainbows rise when they dissolve in mist...?
~Alice Mackenzie Swaim (1911–1996), "Heaven for Amethyst," in Friends Journal, 1981

I want to write a story — my own story... I don't know why, but I want to. If I could paint, I should put it all into a picture — a wonderful picture with amazing colours, that no one but myself would understand. The calm, placidly happy parts would be turquoise blue, — the dull, doubting, un-happy parts would be greys, browns, mauves, and muddy yellows — the parts when one knew oneself to be alive should begin the pale, fresh green of a new spring leaf, would gradually turn into rose, and getting deeper and deeper become crimson, ending in the liquid gold of an Eastern sunset. ~Jittie Martin Horlick (1881–1973), A String of Beads, 1911

My skin is kind of sort of brownish
Pinkish yellowish white.
My eyes are greyish blueish green,
But I'm told they look orange in the night.
My hair is reddish blondish brown,
But it's silver when it's wet.
And all the colors I am inside
Have not been invented yet.
~Shel Silverstein, "Colors"

We have no reliable nomenclature of color tones, and we resort to nature at once for a color name which scientifically does not exist; as, for instance, peacock blue, cherry red, sulphur yellow, sea green, crushed raspberry, and old gold. ~F. Schuyler Mathews, "Comparative Colors and their Relation to Flowers," 1894

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
      For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
            For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
      Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
            And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
      Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
            With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                  Praise him.
~Gerard Manley Hopkins, "Pied Beauty," 1877

One of the strongest elements of beauty in Nature is her colors. ~F. Schuyler Mathews, "Comparative Colors and their Relation to Flowers," 1894

I walked along a street at dawn in cold, grey light...
The lamps were fading, and the sky was streaked rose-red...
The golden trees were calling me: "Come! Come! Come!"
The trees were fresh with daylight, and I heard bees hum.
A cart trailed slowly down the street, its load young greens,
They sparkled like blown emeralds... London's upthrust spires
All tipped with gold and shining in the brisk, blue air...
~Amy Lowell, "Coq d'Or," Pictures of the Floating World, 1919

It is an absolute fact that shadows are as much colours as lights are... ~John Ruskin, "Colour," 1870

Salmon dawns, cinnamon sunsets
Silver-grey, iron-grey winter dusk and morn
Amethystine shadows of snow
The mauve of curving clouds
Ivory, black-pearl, prismatic lustres of Phœnician glass
Green of ancient bronze, cinereous tinge of iron gods
Saffron cerements, violet wine, zebra-striped onyx
~Anne Knish (Arthur Davison Ficke), "Opus 131," Spectra: A Book of Poetic Experiments, 1916  [de-verbed and a little altered —tg]

The western horizon was the dark purple of an old bruise. The forest below the tree line was an amorphous black mass overpainted by the white traceries of the snow that patterned the unseen trunks and branches; protruding above this somber bulk, the crowns of the spruces and poplars were visible as charcoal sketches executed on purpureal parchment, while in the east an aquamarine sky flushed gently, a peach bloom suffusing its landward edge. It was dawn, more or less, but the breaking day was struggling against an invisible cover of heavy cloud that forbade the morning star from welcoming the first faint streaks of crepuscular light. ~R. D. Lawrence (1921–2003), The North Runner, 1979

Earth's favorite color is Spring,
Spring's best-loved color is green,
and green himself loves to party
with yellow, red, orange, and pink.
~Terri Guillemets, "Parti-colored," 2008

To this day, color is an enormous delight to me. It means experience, adventure of all kinds. ~Harry Behn (1898–1973), "Color," Chrysalis: Concerning Children and Poetry, 1968

Over the roof-tops race the shadows of clouds...
Whirlpools of purple and gold,
Winds from the mountains of cinnabar,
Lacquered mandarin moments, palanquins swaying and balancing
Amid the vermilion pavilions, against the jade balustrades.
Glint of the glittering wings of dragon-flies in the light:
Silver filaments, golden flakes settling downwards,
Rippling, quivering flutters, repulse and surrender,
The sun broidered upon the rain,
The rain rustling with the sun.
~John Gould Fletcher

...chaos of color, like a shattered rainbow... ~G.K. Chesterton

But not yet have we solved the incantation of this whiteness... Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way? Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a color as the visible absence of color, and at the same time the concrete of all colors; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows — a colorless, all-color of atheism from which we shrink? And when we consider that other theory of the natural philosophers, that all other earthly hues — every stately or lovely emblazoning — the sweet tinges of sunset skies and woods; yea, and the gilded velvets of butterflies, and the butterfly cheeks of young girls; all these are but subtile deceits, not actually inherent in substances, but only laid on from without; so that all deified Nature absolutely paints like the harlot, whose allurements cover nothing but the charnel-house within; and when we proceed further, and consider that the mystical cosmetic which produces every one of her hues, the great principle of light, for ever remains white or colorless in itself, and if operating without medium upon matter, would touch all objects, even tulips and roses, with its own blank tinge — pondering all this, the palsied universe lies before us a leper; and like wilful travellers in Lapland, who refuse to wear colored and coloring glasses upon their eyes, so the wretched infidel gazes himself blind at the monumental white shroud that wraps all the prospect around him. And of all these things the Albino whale was the symbol. Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt? ~Herman Melville, "The Whiteness of the Whale," Moby-Dick, 1851

garden color palette —
      earth tones and
      vegetable tones
~Forest Houtenschil, "Carrot orange," 2023

[V]ariety of climate should always go with stability of abode.... an Englishman's house is not only his castle; it is his fairy castle. Clouds and colours of every varied dawn and eve are perpetually touching and turning it from clay to gold, or from gold to ivory. There is a line of woodland beyond a corner of my garden which is literally different on every one of the three hundred and sixty-five days. Sometimes it seems as near as a hedge, and sometimes as far as a faint and fiery evening cloud. ~G.K. Chesterton, Alarms and Discursions, "The Glory of Grey"

His eyes tell me
That I am beautiful;
His eyes are magical;
They see beauty where nobody else sees it,
Colours that nobody else sees,
All the rainbow in the gold white of the moon.
For his eyes
My eyes are bluer
Than for any other eyes.
He loves colours with passion,
As a painter loves them;
His eyes drink colours
With thirst, as a mouth drinks wine;
Colours intoxicate him.
~May Sinclair, The Dark Night, 1924

It had been wild weather when I left Rome, and all across the Campagna the clouds were sweeping in sulphurous blue, with a clap of thunder or two, and breaking gleams of sun along the Claudian aqueduct, lighting up the infinity of its arches like the bridge of chaos. But as I climbed the long slope of the Alban mount, the storm swept finally to the north, and the noble outline of the domes of Albano and graceful darkness of its ilex grove rose against pure streaks of alternate blue and amber, the upper sky gradually flushing through the last fragments of rain-cloud in deep, palpitating azure, half ether and half dew. The noonday sun came slanting down the rocky slopes of La Riccia, and its masses of entangled and tall foliage, whose autumnal tints were mixed with the wet verdure of a thousand evergreens, were penetrated with it as with rain. I cannot call it colour; it was conflagration. Purple, and crimson, and scarlet, like the curtains of God's tabernacle, the rejoicing trees sank into the valley in showers of light, every separate leaf quivering with buoyant and burning life; each, as it turned to reflect or to transmit the sunbeam, first a torch and then an emerald. Far up into the recesses of the valley, the green vistas arched like the hollows of mighty waves of some crystalline sea, with the arbutus flowers dashed along their flanks for foam, and silver flakes of orange spray tossed into the air around them, breaking over the grey walls of rock into a thousand separate stars, fading and kindling alternately as the weak wind lifted and let them fall. Every glade of grass burned like the golden floor of heaven, opening in sudden gleams as the foliage broke and closed above it, as sheet-lightning opens in a cloud at sunset; the motionless masses of dark rock — dark though flushed with scarlet lichen, — casting their quiet shadows across its restless radiance, the fountain underneath them filling its marble hollow with blue mist and fitful sound, and over all — the multitudinous bars of amber and rose, the sacred clouds that have no darkness, and only exist to illumine, were seen in fathomless intervals between the solemn and orbed repose of the stone pines, passing to lose themselves in the last, white, blinding lustre of the measureless line where the Campagna melted into the blaze of the sea. ~John Ruskin, 1843

Fancy lays down her pencil here:
Her palettes, bright with mortal hues,
To yield immortal tints refuse:
And those who know Truth's glorious face,
Need not an artist's hand to trace
Her beauty, as she rose in light...
~James Hamilton, "The Shipwreck of St. Paul," c.1856

Nature herself produces all her loveliest colours in some kind of solid or liquid glass or crystal. The rainbow is painted on a shower of melted glass, and the colours of the opal are produced in vitreous flint mixed with water; the green and blue, and golden or amber brown of flowing water is in surface glassy, and in motion splendidior vitro. And the loveliest colours ever granted to human sight — those of morning and evening clouds before or after rain — are produced on minute particles of finely-divided water, or perhaps sometimes ice. ~John Ruskin, "Colour," 1870

Out of life's tangled skein
      Draw here and there a thread;
      And one is black with pain,
      And one with grief is red,
      To show a heart hath bled.
And one is white as youth;
      It marks its perfect time,
      When life, untouched of ruth,
      Mounted toward Summer prime,
      Through love, romance, and rhyme.
Beside Love's glowing threads,
      Here one is cool and gray,
      Where passionate morning weds
      A neutral-tinted day,
      And Peace comes down to stay.
Imperial purple weaves signs,
      Hints of loftier bliss bespread,
      Memories in royal ray tread
      With pallid and paling lines
      Of youth forever fled...
Yet, touching them, they glow,—
      Again the young, warm thrill,
      The tones all sweet and low,
      The hushed heart waiting still,
      As eyes with love o'erfill...
We seat us down some day;
      And from life's tangled skein,
      That Memory holds alway,
      We smooth out lines of pain,
      And love-threads hold pure gain.
O myriad-tinted threads!
      We gather you all at last;
      You mark our whitening heads,
      You bind us to our past,
      And we hold you close and fast.
~Mary Clemmer (1831–1884), "Life-Threads," 1882  [a little altered —tg]

There are no colours, either in the nacre of shells, or the plumes of birds and insects, which are so pure as those of clouds, opal, or flowers; but the force of purple and blue in some butterflies, and the methods of clouding, and strength of burnished lustre, in plumage like the peacock's, give them more universal interest; in some birds, also, as in our own kingfisher, the colour nearly reaches a floral preciousness. The lustre in most, however, is metallic rather than vitreous; and the vitreous always gives the purest hue. ~John Ruskin, "Colour," 1870

I will have me a symphony of coloring. I will enmesh me in the noon sun's gold and wind about me the moonlight's silver sheen. I will dream in a gown made of the haze of a summer evening twilight, and I will have robe on robe of the sky's deep blue, and I will line them with clouds of ermine, and from their trailing folds red stars will gleam. I will pluck the green from the treetops, where wild birds nest and sing, and in the weaving I will ensnare a song. And when Sorrow is my guest, I will wear a gown made of the cold, gray mist. ~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), My Little Book of Prayer, 1904  [a little altered —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

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published 2009 Apr 29
revised Feb 2021
last saved 2024 Feb 14