The Color Yellow in Fine Art and Decorating

Vincent van Gogh Framed ArtIs your favorite color yellow?

Yellow in Its clearest form is associated with bright sunlight, security and cheerfulness. It can be associated with the higher intellect, but also fear, sickliness and lower aspects of the mind, as with sulfurous yellow. Yellow represents caution and evokes a sense of being solitary.

Although various forms of yellow are popular because of its warmth, a true yellow is highly reflective, so it doesn’t show well on the complexion when used in decorating.

In fine art, yellow is rarely ever in its purest form, whether it is given a cool greenish hue or a warm orange cast. Often, yellow based earth tones like Yellow ochre, raw sienna and raw umber are mixed into a cleaner yellow which can help to subdue the intensity of a true yellow without losing its hue. Naples yellow is a step closer to a lighter, cleaner yellow beyond earthy yellow ochre.

Vincent Van Gogh’s painting of an interior called The Bedroom, was his residence at Arles, France in 1888. He had an adjoining room where Gaugin stayed. There are three versions of the painting and some sketches, one of which went to his brother Theo. Van Gogh painted Sunflowers while in Arles as well. Both paintings have an earthy yellow as their dominant color. Blue, Green and red are also in their color schemes.

These paintings are examples of color schemes that are possible for a living environment. The colors of the paintings represent general groups of colors but they don’t have to be limited to the way they were used by Van Gogh. Blues and greens can be lighter and grayed. The earthen yellows in the paintings can be brightened up.

Color chips from the paint store can be viewed near paintings, which would reveal a myriad of possible choices for a living space as a backdrop for artwork.

Of course, a painting that is predominantly yellow doesn’t necessarily have to translate into some form of yellow for the walls of a room. Yellow’s complement- purple or violet, can be the dominant color in the room, but certainly not limited to it. In this instance, yellow is set off, or accented, when put next to its complement.

In order to keep yellow the more dominant color, it can be used in a more intense form than its complement. Violet can be more grayed. A warm neutral gray can also be placed next to yellow which is a handsome combination. It is also possible to use violet or purple as the accent color next to gray and yellow, or one of the colors from a standard color combination groups.

Complementary, split complementary, triad and analogous color combination groups are incorporated by artists in their artwork and can be translated into color combinations for a living environment.

Complementary colors are those which are opposite on the color wheel. Split complementary colors are two colors on either side of the complement of another color. A triad is a three color combination, equidistant from one another on the color wheel. Analogous colors are two colors on either side of another color, which creates a harmony.

Paint stores often have sample chips of colors which show colors combined as just explained.

It is better not to match colors directly from the artwork, but to use the colors in more general terms, altering them in order to suit the room’s lighting and decorative elements.

If your art is abstract expressionism or fauve, It is sometimes a good idea to consider using white with a tint of color for the room, or a gray.

Often, abstract art has a delicate balance of color and form, which can be broken if used to create a color and design scheme for the room. The art can end up looking like wallpaper. It is best to support some abstract art by allowing it to stand on its own integrity.

A great source for prints of Vincent Van Gogh’s framed art work is

Leagh Janell is passionate about fine art and decorating. His 30 years as a fine artist and decorative artist for a high profile clientele have afforded him some authority in those fields. At present, Mr. Janell writes for


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